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Briefs: Swine flu video game teaches healthy habits

swine flu video game teaches healthy habits

Now for the latest in home entertainment: Stop Swine Flu, the video game.

The action starts with a schplouuush of green mucus hitting your screen. Your avatar stands among pedestrians. Tap the space bar to sneeze. Everyone hit by your spray turns green, then sneezes, infecting others. Infecting a child is 5 points, an elderly person is 15. This week the game reached the Top 10 on children's game site Stop Swine Flu is a new name for a game released this year as Sneeze, created to teach young people healthy habits. It was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust.

"We did it to engage the older teen audience and teach them that where you sneeze matters," said Daniel Glaser, the trust's chief of special projects. Each level offers a factoid: More than 100 viruses cause colds, colds cost $25 billion a year in lost productivity, etc.

But isn't it a little sick?

"It's no sicker than Ring Around the Rosy, which is alleged to date from the time of the plague," Glaser said. "I don't think there's anything inappropriate about it."

Cobra discounted for laid-off workers

Under the recently enacted economic stimulus plan, the federal government is offering reduced premiums on Cobra coverage, which allows former employees to retain their group health insurance for 18 months. But a lot of laid-off workers may not know about the discount. "It's not being communicated. I'm seeing tons of people who are overpaying," said Chris Zweidinger, vice president of employee benefits at Crissie Insurance Group. "It's tough to be unemployed, but it's even tougher when you're paying a rate that should be reduced by 65 percent." If you are being overcharged, contact your employer, he advised. Workers terminated between Sept. 1, 2008, and Dec. 31, 2009, will be required to pay only 35 percent of the premium to continue their insurance plan. The discount is available for nine months.

No link between tattoos, skin cancer

The question: Do tattoos lead to skin cancer?

The facts: Many inks are made with metals; tattooing can be traumatizing to the skin. Studies have documented a few cases of cancer at a tattoo site. But Dr. Ariel Ostad, an assistant clinical professor of dermatology at New York University, says the ink is confined to skin cells called macrophages, which absorb foreign material. More likely, he said, the tattoo was placed on an existing mole, masking changes in the mole. So, he says, if you're getting a tattoo, "leave a rim of healthy skin around a pre-existing mole."

Bottom line: There is no evidence that tattoos lead to skin cancer.

New York Times, Chicago Tribune

Briefs: Swine flu video game teaches healthy habits 05/06/09 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 6, 2009 5:57pm]
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