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BYU - Operation Outbreak

Offering Experiential Learning Opportunities to BYU Students

BYU Operation Outbreak is focused on pandemic related responses in society

Thank you for a wonderful 2022 simulation!

A record number of participants created a contact tracing network on BYU campus to explore outbreak science. We had an estimated 750 total simulation participants! The last thing we will ask of you is to fill out the Post-Simulation Survey below. Thank you to everyone who participated or was involved.

Link to Post-Simulation Survey

Now that our 2022 simulation is done, we hope to compare both BYU simulations looking for trends in community behaviors. We will keep you updated with the latest news and data.

OO at BYU Simulation Visualization

Operation Outbreak Seminar


BYU Operation Outbreak has provided BYU students with an opportunity to learn about social behaviors, infectious diseases, and protective interventions during the simulated spread of a “virtual pathogen” for nine days. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2), which is the virus that causes COVID-19 was the focus of this simulation.

How Does It Work?

Operation Outbreak, which was developed by a talented team at Harvard/MIT, runs within an app that simulates spread of an infectious disease among participants. Specifically, the app takes into account the social interactions of participants as the disease spreads. This app uses Bluetooth to record anonymized interactions and tracks the spread of the virtual pathogen. You will be able to see how well you are doing via feedback on the number of contacts, virtual symptoms, virtual health status, and more. Participants can reduce their chance of being exposed to the virus by getting a vaccine for their simulation.

Operation Outbreak 2019

Operation Outbreak 2019


As the BYU community moves on from the COVID-19 pandemic, there is still much to learn from topics that deal with social behaviors, vaccine hesitancy, etc. Simulations like these will enable students to better understand how to respond to potential future pandemics. Participants will learn how their normal daily routine can result in natural exposure to many different pathogens. With this knowledge, we hope to help those involved make educated decisions about their specific situations they may encounter in the future.

We are excited about BYU's progress to a new normal with the announcement on Feb 23rd pertaining to mask-wearing in classes.

Note about privacy:

The OO app keeps track of the dynamics of the outbreak by generating anonymous data: random identifiers for all devices, transmission events between those identifiers, total number of infected participants, and their simulated health status ("infected", "recovered", "dead", etc.) This data will enable subsequent visualization and analysis of the outbreak, but the app will not collect any kind of identifiable information, such as name, phone number, etc. The OO app will need to keep running in the background of each device. The app will only gather data during the simulation between Friday, February 19 and Monday, March 1. After the simulation ends the OO server will no longer record anything from the app.