As mathematical modeling of infectious diseases becomes increasingly important for developing public health policies, a novel platform for such studies might be considered. Millions of people worldwide play interactive online role-playing games, forming complex and rich networks among their virtual characters. An unexpected outbreak of an infective communicable disease (unplanned by the game creators) recently occurred in this virtual world. This outbreak holds surprising similarities to real-world epidemics. It is possible that these virtual environments could serve as a platform for studying the dissemination of infectious diseases, and as a testing ground for novel interventions to control emerging communicable diseases.
From the Epidemiology Department, Faculty of Health Sciences, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva, Israel.
Submitted 1 October 2006; accepted 28 November 2006.
Correspondence: Ran D. Balicer, Epidemiology Department, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, 27 Hagilgal St. Ramat-Gan, 52392 Israel. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.