CDC posts Oregon Trail-like video game for public health

Players can walk through Philadelphia in the 1918 flu pandemic and try not to die.
By Tom Sullivan
12:22 PM
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CDC Oregon Trail

Remember that old computer game Oregon Trail? Well, some of us do, and now the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has posted a public health iteration wherein players try not to catch the flu. It’s called Pandemic Trail and I tried it out for a bit of health IT fun.

After the stage is set that you’re in Philadelphia during the 1918 influenza pandemic, the player chooses one of three avatars: a letter carrier, farmer or soldier.

I picked farmer. In that role, I loaded up a wagon and headed to the farmers market to sell my harvest. But, not surprisingly, things don’t quite go as planned.

I won’t spoil the fun, other than to reveal that I didn’t make it through the first time. Rather, I contracted flu germs and perished quickly.

Modern user experience gurus might say that makes the game more engaging, if not downright sticky – or perhaps not.

Either way, it’s an interesting use of gaming to educate people and a novel throwback to early days of memorable video games.

If you’re reading this on a phone, know that the CDC noted that the game doesn’t work on mobile devices. That was true of my phone but it’s playable on tablets with a physical keyboard. 

CDC also said Pandemic Trail will only be available for a limited time. Try it out right here.

Twitter: @SullyHIT
Email the writer: tom.sullivan@himssmedia.com