Someone is coughing in a restaurant on Fifth Street. Five blocks away, two more people start to hack. A bus stops and picks one of them up — and an outbreak may be about to begin. Can you track and solve it before it becomes a city-wide health hazard?

That's the goal of a new free iPad app from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) called "Solve the Outbreak."

Players take on the role of a CDC disease detective, who has to make tough choices like quarantining a population or knowing when to request more lab tests as they try to prevent the spread of a growing health hazard. Along the way, users can post their scores on social networking sites to compete with their friends.

The goal of the game, the CDC says, is to teach people about diseases and outbreaks. It also illustrates the role the agency specifically — and public health efforts in general — play in preventing outbreaks around the world. The CDC's Epidemic Intelligence Service officers work around the world to figure out why people are getting sick and what can be done to prevent the spread of a disease before it becomes a major health hazard. "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," a CDC spokesperson told ABC News.

The app — just one of many offered by the CDC — was released on Feb. 7 and had been downloaded more than 2,000 times by Feb. 20. The agency told ABC that its goal is for the app to be downloaded between 15,000 and 25,000 times.

Related on MNN:

Be a disease detective: Solve outbreaks with new CDC iPad app
The CDC hopes to teach the public about outbreaks and maybe attract future epidemiologists through the free app.