Local doctors and a team of college video game designers have collaborated on a new video game they hope will alleviate children's fears about getting a flu shot.
"I'm not a fan of the needle," said 10-year-old Nick Martinez of Rosedale, just after playing the game called "Flu Busters."
"But now I understand the dangers of the flu," he said.
That's music to the ears of Dr. Leonard Krilov, a Winthrop University hospital pediatric specialist who believed something unique was needed to convince kids the flu shot wasn't a bad thing.
"A lot of our patients, especially the adolescents, were not getting immunized," said Krilov.
Krilov turned to some older kids for help -- a digital game design team at Long Island University Post college in Brookville, on Long Island.
"I hated needles, too but I hated getting the flu more," said college senior Sam Zarahn, a member of the design team.
Under the direction of professor Elena Bertozzi, the students completed the game design in a few months.
"We sat around thinking, 'How can we make getting a shot something kids would want to do?'" said Bertozzi.
Using a powerful hero named "Vaccine Man" and green, gross-looking flu germs, the 10-minute video game places the players in various situations at school where they are exposed to the flu virus. If they make the correct choices, the players can make it through without getting sick.
In the end, the game asks if the youngsters are ready for a flu shot.
According to Winthrop officials, every kid who has been shown the game has opted for the shot. The sample size is small, doctors admit, but the hope is that "Flu Busters" will be made available at clinics and hospitals around the tri-state area.