In order to better engage with the public, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is expanding its use of social media, Healthcare IT News reports. Thus far, the CDC has tapped virtual worlds, podcasts, RSS feeds, social networking sites such as Facebook, widgets, chats and electronic cards. Noting that on Valentine’s Day 2008 more than 6,000 of its e-cards were sent with health messages, CDC officials suggest its early use of social media has helped establish a trusted, visible online brand among the public. For instance, across the last two years, the CDC has worked with a popular virtual world called Whyville to disseminate messages about seasonal flu vaccinations to youths ages 12 to 14. They found that in 2007 roughly 41,000 site users vaccinated their avatars within Whyville, including 1,800 seniors who play the game with their grandchildren. CDC officials note the site served as a vehicle for teaching both youth and adults about seasonal flu prevention, as well as raising awareness about other public health topics. Another project currently underway taps videos made by college students that are sent via cell phones to promote HIV/AIDS prevention, and officials note plans are underway to create similar videos about smoking cessation. To further broaden its reach, the CDC is exploring additional social media uses in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and plans to share its lessons learned with other federal agencies (Manos, Healthcare IT News, 4/8/08).