Don't use 'Plague Inc.' smartphone game to predict coronavirus, developer says

Airports are stepping up screenings of the new strain of coronavirus as more people outside of China are becoming infected with it.

Developers behind the popular smartphone game Plague Inc. are trying to put a damper on their own viral success, amid a surge in interest related to the coronavirus outbreak spreading from China in recent weeks.

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The game challenges users to infect — and ultimately wipe out — all human life on Earth, using the realistic transmission and mutation mechanics of various diseases. Each game starts with an infection in one country, and users spread that infection by mutating the disease to add transmission vectors and symptoms.

A world map is shown in the video game 'Plague Inc."

A world map is shown in the video game 'Plague Inc."

Plague Inc./Ndemic Creations

The game urges players to think about how diseases might spread in real life.

“Plague Inc. is a hyper-realistic model of the world,” the game tells its users. “Plan your strategy and evolve your disease accordingly.”

The game has been a top performer on the App Store and Google Play for years, but its popularity has spiked amid fears of the coronavirus that was first reported in Wuhan, China.

“We specifically designed the game to be realistic and informative, while not sensationalizing serious real-world issues,” developer Ndemic Creations wrote in a statement.

“However, please remember that Plague Inc. is a game, not a scientific model and that the current coronavirus outbreak is a very real situation which is impacting a huge number of people.”

A screenshot from the video game 'Plague Inc.' shows a user-named "coronavirus," based on a generic virus.

A screenshot from the video game 'Plague Inc.' shows a user-named "coronavirus," based on a generic virus.

Ndemic Creations/Plague Inc

The developer says its site crashed last week amid the viral popularity of its game.

Plague Inc. has been applauded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, Ndemic says people shouldn’t take that to mean it’s a substitute for the World Health Organization and other public health organizations.

Coronavirus-Plague Inc. memes have spread widely online since the outbreak, and some users have claimed to use the game as a simulator.

Anxiety has been high around the world amid a viral outbreak that has spread from a suspected origin point in Wuhan, China. The disease spreads through the droplets a person releases when coughing or sneezing, and has an incubation period of 1-14 days.

It is being commonly referred to as coronavirus, although that term actually applies to a whole family of viruses, including the ones behind Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

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The World Health Organization simply calls it a “novel coronavirus” with the temporary name 2019-nCoV.

Face masks have been flying off the shelves, racism has crept into the picture and people around the world are closely watching for new cases outside of China’s borders.

Health officials have identified the first Canadian cases of the virus in Toronto and the Vancouver area.

© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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