Ever wondered how epidemiologists track new diseases? Was the plague film "Contagion" not immersive enough for you?
You may want to check out "Solve the Outbreak" a free iPad app just released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that allows users to play "disease detective" in several outbreak scenarios.
The experience mimics that of the public health agency's Epidemic Intelligence Service agents, allowing you to parse evidence about outbreaks and make tough decisions. Do you quarantine the village? Talk to people who are sick? Ask for more lab results?
Players earn points for each clue, and the better your answers, the more quickly you prevent the disease from spreading and save lives. The app is also integrated with social media, allowing you to share scores on Facebook and Twitter.
This app is the latest federal government effort to embrace mobile applications in educating the masses about public health issues. Some recent examples are the PTSD Coach and PTSD Experience apps developed by the National Center for Telehealth and Technology, and the WISER system for first responders handling hazardous substances.
The CDC is hoping that this gamification approach reaches teenagers and young adults, in addition to "public health nerds of all ages," in raising awareness about the spread of infectious diseases.
The "Solve the Outbreak" iPad app is available for free download on iTunes.