The CDC Made a Comic Book — And It’s Horrifying

It’s on page 21 of The Junior Disease Detectives: Operation Outbreak that things start to get a little weird.

Eddie, one of the heroes of the story, tosses his cookies in a trash can, to which another character exclaims “Ugh, Eddie is throwing up. I think it’s time to call it a night.”

It might sound out of place for a Marvel or DC graphic novel, but seeing as this one came from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it actually kind of makes sense.

The 53-page story is, at its heart, a tale of scientific discovery, where high school students learn how to track an outbreak of disease. But along the way, readers see a character nearly die, discover what swine flu is and risk the threat of a global pandemic.

Junior Disease Detectives follows the adventures of a group of teenage 4-H members who participate in a state agricultural fair and later attend CDC’s Disease Detective Camp in Atlanta. But that trip to the fair proves disastrous for one.

Ultimately, of course, the book is meant as a promotional tool for the CDC and as a way to encourage students to embrace STEM and critical thinking. And while it has the same heroic dreams you’d expect to find in a comic, it’s a bit different than some readers might expect.

The Junior Disease Detectives: Operation OutbreakCenters for Disease Control and Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The book was created by the CDC in cooperation with teachers participating in its Science Ambassador Fellowship. The groups will provide classroom activities to work in conjunction with the book to further focus on the lessons of the story, including influenza (flu) epidemiology, flu biology, zoonotic diseases, variant flu, novel flu, and pandemic flu.

The flu generally sees a spike in cases starting in October or November of each year and can run as late as February. Last year, as many as 4,000 people per week died from the illness.

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