With 41 states having reported widespread and severe outbreaks of flu this season, timely new research sheds light on why less than half of the American population has gotten a flu shot.
Despite widespread knowledge that a vaccine is the best way to reduce the chances of catching and spreading the flu, even three of the four main TODAY show anchors recently admitted they had not gotten a flu shot (until they did so live on the air).
Using an online computer game that simulates the spread of an infectious disease among its players, researchers at Wake Forest University learned more about what motivates people to protect themselves from infection from the flu to whooping cough.
The study, the first in the economics of disease control using virtual diseases, was conducted by economists Fred Chen, Allin Cottrell and Amanda Griffith, and computer scientist Yue-Ling Wong.
"When it comes to policies for disease control, one size does not fit all. Some people are very risk tolerant and some are super risk averse. Our research shows that to prevent an epidemic, there is a need to tailor a menu of options for different kinds of people," said Chen, who studies economic epidemiology.
When studying how best to contain epidemics, scientists and policy makers often must make assumptions in mathematical models about how many people will or will not take preventive measures to keep from getting sick. The virtual epidemic experiment allowed first-hand observation about how people really behave when faced with choices about whether or not to self-protect during a widespread occurrence of infection in a community.
Rolling the dice to stay healthy
The multiplayer game simulates an epidemic among the players over several weeks. At the beginning of each day of the game, healthy players have the option to choo
|Contact: Kim McGrath|
Wake Forest University