CDC Turns From Zombies to 'Outbreak' iPad App

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the folks who brought the world a controversial zombie apocalypse campaign, has launched a free iPad app that lets users play a game to stem a fictitious epidemic.

Users of the app, called "Solve the Outbreak" can pretend they're a public health detective by taking steps such as quarantining a village, asking for more lab results and interviewing sick people. Good problem-solving skills are rewarded by high points and badges.

"We look at this as an engaging opportunity to educate young people to how public health actually works, and hopefully to draw some future epidemiologists," CDC spokesman Alex Casanova told

The app was developed in-house and cost $110,000 to develop, minus salaries, and so far it's been downloaded about 2,000 times, he said. The goal is to get between 15,000 and 25,000 downloads in a year.

The game is the CDC's latest attempt to use pop culture to entice the public to prepare for a major outbreak. In May 2011 the CDC unveiled a zombie-themed campaign, which included downloadable zombie-themed posters and a novella called "Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic."

The agency called the campaign "tongue-in-cheek," but later, after a string of grisly violent incidents, the CDC had to make an official statement saying there's no evidence of a coming zombie apocalypse.

An agency official told in September that the zombie idea came after Twitter users responded to the agency's question about what type of disasters they were prepared for.

"It can be tough to get people thinking about emergency preparedness before disaster strikes. We've created these zombie posters to spark some attention and get people involved before it's too late," the CDC said in a statement at the time.

Dr. Richard Besser, ABC News' chief health and medical editor and former CDC acting director, said he thinks the app is "terrific."

"This morning over coffee, I worked through the outbreak of a stomach bug among kids on a school trip. It took me back to the days when I was a disease detective for the CDC," he said. "This is a great way for people to learn a bit about how diseases are spread and how the CDC goes about solving outbreak mysteries."