How to Solve the Outbreak!

disease detective

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has developed a new app to educate citizens on epidemiology. The app is called Solve the Outbreak ( The app features 12 different outbreaks (for a complete list of outbreaks, see below) and gives you the opportunity to learn about and solve a health related problem. In the beginning you are a “Trainee” and you are a member of the Epidemic Intelligence Service with the ultimate goal of becoming a “Disease Detective.” After choosing an outbreak, you are given a description of the outbreak. For “Breathless in the Midwest” I was told that Zeke was experiencing respiratory problems, but his friends were not. At this point, you are given a choice to “choose this mission.” Next you are given clues and it is your job to make the correct choice to solve the outbreak.  Once you answer clues correctly, you earn points which can help you to earn different badges such as Novice, Apprentice, Assistant, Specialist, Senior Specialist, and Disease Detective. Moreover, you can also earn different achievements such as Clever Clogs, Smarty Pants, Knowledge Seeker, Loyalty, and my all time favorite Public Health Nerd! Unfortunately, if you do not solve the mystery, you will be branded with the Grim Reaper and/or Underachiever badge.

Spring break screen shot

At the scene of the epidemic you take into account what the symptoms of the patients are, what is associated with their illness, how the epidemic started, and how it is spread. If you solve the 12 outbreaks, you can move on to level 2 and shoot for your Surveillance Honors and Treatment Honors badges. Currently level 2 has four new outbreaks and I predict the CDC will probably add more because of the popularity of the app. Another plus to this app is that social media is fully integrated so that you can share your score with friends on Twitter and Facebook.

iPad screen shots


The goal of the game is to act smart and quickly to save a town, state, or even a country. The overarching goal is to educate citizens on the nuts and bolts of epidemiology.






I just finished “Breathless in the Midwest” and I have moved up to Novice! I also introduced my daughter (11yo) to the game and she is hooked. So this game is not just educating people on health related issues, it is also motivating families to spend time together!

Although this app is designed for the iPad, it is a very fun way to educate the populace on certain aspects of how an epidemic starts. In addition, it also makes people aware of who helps to keep the public safe. Who knew that health communication could be so much fun!


Some of the epidemic scenarios in level 1:

Breathless in the Midwest

The Village of Gold

Spring Break Fever

The Queens Killer

Case of the Conference Blues

Sugar Plantation Blues

Hiding in Plain Sight

Deadlier than War

Connect the Spots

Laid Low in the Desert

Birthday Party Gone Bad

Up Sick Creek

Midterm Revenge


points screen shot


4 thoughts on “How to Solve the Outbreak!

    • Yeah, this is definitely awesome. I just saw it today and thought, “I have to have this!!” I am sure this will become a hit amongst the public health crowd like MySpace for teenagers.” I am planning to introduce it to my 11 year old daughter sometime this weekend.

  1. LOVE this idea and will be downloading this app! I have long shuttle rides back to the east bay so playing an informative game that can flex my public health muscles is great! I have another one Mono y Mono in the Dorms or something more clever 🙂

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