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U hopes online game will help sell public health careers

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The University of Minnesota hopes a new online game will spark student interest in public health careers.

"Epidemic!" is a free game that gives students a glimpse into public health jobs by simulating the tasks performed during a disease outbreak. As the epidemic progresses, players must try to figure out its cause and contain it. Individuals can collaborate with up to three other players to make decisions.

An epidemic is "usually the time when public health does make the news and it's usually the time when public health goes wrong ... But it's also the time that's intriguing because it's solving a mystery," said Louise Stenberg, who designs health education programs for the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health and helped create "Epidemic!"

An earlier game produced by the School of Public Health called "Outbreak at WatersEdge" turned out to be a good recruiting tool, Stenberg said. Some 25,000 people played that game last year. Follow up surveys with players showed the game got people interested in public health and science, she added.