woman playing plinkoPop quiz — the flu is caused by:

A) A virus.
B) Bacteria.
C) Worms.
D) Gremlins.

You don’t need to get the answer correct at the Texas A&M University School of Public Health booth at the Public Health Expo for a chance to play public health plinko and win some cool Aggie swag. But if you do know your public health trivia, Kerry Noack, the school’s associate director of student affairs, will be duly impressed.

“We just wanted to try a little something fun,” Noack said as he stood in front of the giant game emblazoned with the word ‘howdy.’ That warmed this southern girl’s heart, as did the University of Kentucky College of Public Health’s giant “health for all y’all” message.

No matter what region you hail from, you can find a lot of entertaining diversions in the expo hall to help you unwind between scientific sessions.

Walden University has rocks for you to decorate and share. The University of Florida (go, Gators!) Center for Arts and Medicine is giving out watercolor paints and other art supplies. And for that midday lull in energy, stop by the University of Michigan’s booth for some free Rita’s Italian Ice (hey, the company was born in Pennsylvania). They’ll offer that tasty treat from 1-5 p.m. on Monday and on Tuesday from 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

When I didn’t win my first choice of prizes at the University of Nevada Las Vegas booth’s wheel, I got to try two more times (yes, I wanted that free USB drive). As always, the giveaways from public health’s schools, government agencies, nonprofits and companies make for creative and useful souvenirs. You might think you have enough stress balls, but do you have a heart-shaped one from the Indiana University School of Public Health, a lobster from the University of New England or a bee from the Public Health Accreditation Board? They pack easily and help during those long days of meetings and networking. I love my sister so much, I even picked her up a dog bone-shaped stress ball from the University of Georgia School of Public Health.

smiling women at Public Health Expo boothEqually enticing: the fascinating conversations you’ll have with people who are passionate about public health. The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases has a fun social media contest that gives participants a chance to participate in the #FightFlu raffle and win a stuffed microbe. I can’t really describe the prize, so check it out for yourself.

“We’re making flu viral, but in a good way,” said Joana Colbourne, who also reminded me that vaccinefinder.org helps you locate flu vaccines near your home or workplace.

Be sure the visit the nice folks at AcademyHealth and de Beaumont. They’re both sponsors of APHA’s upcoming Policy Action Institute and have a range of great programs and events to tell you about.

At the back of the expo hall you’ll find Everything APHA, where you can find out everything you ever wanted to know about APHA Sections and SPIGs, get your free headshot taken at the membership booth, purchase books and an Annual Meeting T-shirt from APHA Press and see what’s in store this year for National Public Health Week and from APHA’s Get Ready campaign.

It’s impossible to highlight all that’s great about the expo. Due yourself a favor and find some time to browse the aisles. Hours are Monday and Tuesday, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.

Photos by Donya Currie