Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

WV State News

July 17, 2013

Virginia Tech researchers to track ‘zombie virus’ at Boy Scout Jamboree

BLACKSBURG, Va. — If researchers from Virginia Tech’s Virginia Bioinformatics Institute have their way, thousands of Boy Scouts might turn into zombies as part of an educational game called Virus Tracker during the National Boy Scout Jamboree from now to July 22 at Summit Bechtel Reserve in Fayette County.

Virus Tracker was developed by researchers at the Network Dynamics and Simulation Science Laboratory to help people understand the spread of disease and the public health response required for disease outbreaks, according to Virginia Tech officials. The data collected by playing Virus Tracker can be used to understand how social contact networks are pathways for transmission of infectious diseases.

Designed to show how disease spreads, Virus Tracker allows participants to use scannable bar codes to “infect” other players. They will get points for infecting one another, but they will also strive to become and stay human, organizers said. The codes can be activated at scanning stations or by troop leaders with smart phones. The troop that maintains the highest points on a certain day wins the game.

From the data collected at the jamboree, researchers will create an infection tree to show how individual scouts spread the zombie virus within their population. The zombie virus infection will provide a teaching tool for showing how diseases such as flu can become pandemics, organizers say.

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