Pokémon Go and Exposure to Mosquito-Borne Diseases: How Not to Catch ‘Em All

Rachel Oidtman, Rebecca C. Christofferson, Q.A. ten Bosch, Guido España, Moritz U.G. Kraemer, Andrew Tatem, Christopher M. Barker, T.A. Perkins

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

Pokémon Go is a new game that encourages players to venture outdoors and interact with others in the pursuit of virtual Pokémon characters. With more time spent outdoors overall and in sometimes large congregations, Pokémon Go players could inadvertently elevate their risk of exposure to mosquito-borne diseases when playing in certain areas at certain times of year. Here, we make an initial assessment of the possible scope of this concern in the continental United States, which experiences its highest seasonal transmission of West Nile, Zika, and other viruses during summer and early fall. In particular, we propose that the times of day when many disease-relevant mosquito species are most likely to engage in blood feeding coincide with times of day when Pokémon Go activity is likely to be high, and we note that locations serving as hubs of Pokémon Go activity may in some cases overlap with areas where these mosquitoes are actively engaged in blood feeding. Although the risk of mosquito-borne diseases in the continental U.S. is low overall and is unlikely to be impacted significantly by Pokémon Go, it is nonetheless important for Pokémon Go players and others who spend time outdoors engaging in activities such as barbecues and gardening to be aware of these ongoing risks and to take appropriate preventative measures in light of the potential for outdoor activity to modify individual-level risk of exposure. As Pokémon Go and other augmented reality games become available in other parts of the world, similar risks should be assessed in a manner that is consistent with the local epidemiology of mosquito-borne diseases in those areas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLOS Currents
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2016
Externally publishedYes

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