I recently saw a trailer for the upcoming release of a movie called “Contagion.” Based on what I’ve seen so far, it’s a disaster movie based on a worldwide outbreak of an extremely nasty version of bird flu. I’m sure they’ve taken the regular Hollywood liberties when it comes to presenting the story.After all, that’s what sells.
Recent events show us that, although the movie is likely quite overblown when it comes to the outbreak, there is some reason to still be a bit concerned about this virus. The United Nations recently issued a warning that bird migrations have spread the H5N1 bird flu back into areas that had previously been considered virus-free, and a mutant strain of H5N1 is spreading in Asia, and it certainly creates a concern that the movie version isn’t so far-fetched.
I’m not bringing you this news to promote a movie or spur panic. Keep in mind that we don’t have H5N1 here in the U.S., thanks to the surveillance and protective measures we have in place. H5N1 is nevertheless a threat to our global health, and the United Nations, OIE and other groups continue to address it as a high-priority disease. It is only through concerted and coordinated efforts, not drama and panic, that we can successfully get H5N1 under control…or better yet, eradicated.
If you choose to see the movie, I hope you’ll keep it in perspective as Hollywood drama…but I also hope it gives you a dramatic example of why it’s so critical (and challenging) to control disease outbreaks.