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8/24/2009
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CDC Readies Internet Barrage To Combat Swine Flu

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control uses a range of Internet services, including Twitter, YouTube, and even games, to help spread flu-protection messages.

Information on and links to all the CDC's social media campaigns are available on an overview page at CDC.gov. Of the CDC's e-health marketing group's about 35 full-time staffers, three or four are working on social media.

Social media is especially important in cases of the H1N1 virus because it strikes young adults particularly hard compared with other flus, which are generally most dangerous to the very old and very young. Health officials say they need to get information to young adults in the channels that they use, such as social media.

The CDC is also dabbling with using games and virtual worlds to get information out. It has released a flu game into Whyville, a virtual world for tweens. Players can catch the "Why-Flu" by sneezing and talking in close proximity to avatars who haven't been vaccinated. Whyville avatars who catch the electronic flu can't talk. The game teaches good hygiene and health practices.

Grandparents often go on Whyville to spend time with their grandchildren so the game also exposes older people--another high-risk group--to the health information as well.

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