You can now be a disease detective at home with the CDC’s free iPad App “Solve the Outbreak”.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), new disease outbreaks occur on a daily basis, and its detectives are “on the front lines”, working twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to protect people nationwide.

When an outbreak occurs, the CDC sends out disease detectives to determine how they started, how dangerous they are, and whether they are contagious. They also gather further data which help health authorities, doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals know what to do to deal with it and stop it from spreading. According to the CDC, with Solve the Outbreak, an iPad app, you get to do the same!

The CDC says that in this “interactive, engaging app”, the player decides:

  • What needs to be done when an outbreak occurs
  • Whether to quarantine the community, village or town
  • Ask for further laboratory results
  • Talk to the patients who became ill

Users can assume the role of a disease outbreak detective in the CDC’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) by navigating three outbreaks which are based on real-life events. The CDC emphasized that “the outbreaks are fictional”. The user gets clues, has to review various data, and make crucial decisions to determine why the outbreak occurred.

The application has a scoring system which rewards you according to how well you answer, and how rapidly you save lives.

The player starts off as a Trainee. As you solve cases you are awarded badges and get promoted, until you become a Disease Detective, the top rank.

“Save the Outbreak”, an iPad app, where you can become a disease detective

The CDC describes the application as ideal for “teenagers, young adults and public health nerds of all ages”. It is an ideal way of taking the study of epidemiology out into the field – outside the classroom.

With Solve the Outbreak you will:

  • Learn about outbreaks and diseases in a realistic and engaging way
  • Experience how disease detectives worldwide save lives
  • Have a go at solving an outbreak yourself
  • Post your scores on Twitter or Facebook
  • Challenge family members, friends, school and work colleagues to do better!

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, said:

“The goal is to use new technology to provide an engaging, interactive way for users to learn how CDC solves outbreaks, thereby increasing general knowledge about real-life public health issues. This application allows us to illustrate the challenges of solving outbreaks and how our disease detectives work on the front lines to save lives and protect people 24/7.”

Carol Crawford, branch chief, CDC’s Electronic Media Branch, described the app as a fantastic learning tool for mystery lovers, public health enthusiasts, young adults, teens and science teachers.

At the moment the application has three scenarios. The CDC says it plans to add new outbreak cases.

The EIS program was set up by the CDC in the early 1950s. It employs some of the country’s most gifted scientists, doctors, veterinarians and health professionals. They undergo a 2-year on-the-job training program in epidemiology.

Apart from working in public health surveillance and scientific research, EIS officers are on stand-by to fly anywhere in the USA at a moment’s notice. Sometimes they are asked to travel overseas to investigate mysterious disease outbreaks, man-made and natural disasters, and other emergencies. EIS officers are also known as “Disease Detectives”.

Dr. Frieden said:

“The public no longer have to experience an outbreak investigation through fictional Hollywood films like Contagion. Users can now get their own first-hand experience of being a disease detective through this new application.”

You can download “Solve the Outbreak” from iTunes store.

Written by Christian Nordqvist