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Star in your own 'Outbreak' with new iPad app from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

A new app from the CDC aims to teach the public about disease outbreaks and how they are stopped.
A new app from the CDC aims to teach the public about disease outbreaks and how they are stopped.
Screenshot via the CDC iPad app

Everyone's heard (and loved) this plot before: There's an uncontrollable disease that's spreading like wildfire, and it's up to innovative doctors and researchers to understand the sickness before it's too late.

Whether it's Dustin Hoffman in Outbreak or Kate Winslet in Contagion, everyone loves a stop-at-nothing super scientist.

Now, you can be that scientist, with a new iPad app created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The federal government's health agency announced a new Apple game this week called Solve the Outbreak, where you work your way up from a Trainee to an esteemed Disease Detective by answering questions about outbreaks.

Examples include: "Do you quarantine the village? Talk to the people who are sick? Ask for more lab results?"

With correct answers come higher scores and more lives saved. And, the CDC hopes, a greater knowledge of disease, how it spreads and what health officials do to stop real-life outbreaks.

"New outbreaks happen every day, and CDC's disease detectives are on the front lines, working 24/7 to save lives and protect people. When new outbreaks happen, disease detectives are sent in to figure out how they started, before they can spread," according to the CDC's description of the game.

One example of an Outbreak case is "Birthday Party Gone Bad": The app presents the player with a scene - in this case, the aftermath of a 5-year-old's birthday party at a swim club - and describes the party-goers' symptoms (vomiting and stomach cramps top the list). 

From there, you sift through a variety of clues, multiple choice questions and vocabulary explanations as you wind your way through the case to find the disease culprit.

There's also an option on the app's homepage called "New Outbreaks." It gives the CDC room to add new diseases as they crop up, and it gives you - the esteemed Disease Detective - a germ-filled challenge to look forward to.