Scientists and gamers alike can now play disease detective, through “Solve the Outbreak,” a new iPad app from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The app lets users assume the role of a disease outbreak investigator in the agency’s Epidemic Intelligence Service (EIS) by navigating three fictional outbreaks based on real-life events. Users get clues, review data, and make decisions to determine the cause of the outbreak.
“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,” says CDC director Tom Frieden. “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.”
In the game, participants also become familiar with health tips, definitions and information about epidemiology, which is a science used to investigate outbreaks and to monitor patterns, causes and effects of diseases on the public. Users advance in rank as they earn points and can post their results on Facebook and Twitter to challenge other participants.
“This is a great learning tool for science teachers, teens, young adults, public health enthusiasts and mystery lovers,” says Carol Crawford, branch chief of the CDC’s Electronic Media Branch. “The three introductory scenarios are based on actual events EIS officers have solved. We also plan to add new outbreak cases.”
Established in the early 1950s, the EIS program recruits some of the most gifted physicians, scientists, health professionals and veterinarians into a two year on the job training program in epidemiology. In addition to their scientific, research, and surveillance work in public health, EIS officers, also known as disease detectives, are ready at a moment’s notice to fly anywhere in United States and around the world to investigate mysterious disease outbreaks, natural and man-made disasters, and other public health emergencies.
“The public no longer have to experience an outbreak investigation through fictional Hollywood films like Contagion,” Frieden says. “Users can now get their own first-hand experience of being a disease detective through this new application.”
Solve the Outbreak application is available in the iTunes store at: https://tunes.apple.com/US/app/id592485067.