UI Biology Professor and Students Raise Awareness About Virus Transmission and Vaccination

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Becky Phelps, KCRG-TV9 Reporter
December 10, 2020

IOWA CITY, Iowa (KCRG) - Students at the University of Iowa are using an online activity to raise awareness about virus transmission and vaccination.

For University of Iowa Associate Professor of Biology and Gender, Women’s, and Sexuality Studies, Maurine Neiman, raising awareness about vaccination is a personal mission. Earlier this year, she lost her two-year-old son due to influenza. ”I’ve always been very interested in the importance of vaccines, and very committed to that, but after losing JJ, the importance of vaccines and community vaccinations, so using vaccination to not just protect yourself, but the people around me really was emphasized,” says Neiman. Now, she’s leading a team of students to help educate others on how viruses work.

UI, the Iowa City Science Booster Club and Families Fighting Flu worked together to create a free, live-streamed role playing game that uses the flu to educate families about viruses. Students will be leading the activity throughout the day on Friday. It focuses on topics like flu symptoms, animal transmission, and vaccination. “The students who lead the activity have been working incredibly hard with language and ways to communicate complex concepts in ways that are really really accessible,” says Neiman.

Families Fighting Flu is a national non-profit made up of families who work to teach about flu education and prevention. “It’s really important that people are aware, right, so they can be empowered, so they can be aware and informed about the necessary prevention methods that they can take to protect not only themselves... but others as well,” says Serese Marotta, Chief Operating officer with Families Fighting Flu.

Marotta says the addition of COVID-19 this year makes getting a flu vaccine more important than ever. “Right now, we are seeing our healthcare systems just be absolutely crushed by another wave of COVID-19. So we certainly want to avoid impacting our health care systems more by having an influx of influenza patients in the healthcare systems,” says Marotta.

The activity on Friday, December 11, is designed for children 7-14, and their families, and takes 30 minutes, with time slots available throughout the day.

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