CDC posts Oregon Trail-like video game for public health

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