Contagion…in real life?

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.

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  1. Eric Gonder says:

    Pandemic H5N1 has never occurred in the Western Hemisphere, not just the US. Even the live bird markets here have remained free, despite their similarity to the Asian markets where the virus apparently evolved.

    It has also never occurred in humans consuming conventionally processed poultry anywhere as best I know. Human cases generally involve intimate unprotected contact with, or consumption of, severely diseased poultry in non-commercial settings.

    I hope to see the movie – most biodisaster movies are a hoot from an infection control standpoint.


    • Dr. Kimberly May says:

      You’re absolutely correct, thanks for posting! If this movie is consistent with previous examples, anyone who knows anything about biosecurity will probably view it more as a comedy than a sci fi, drama or horror flick. :) How many errors and breaks in protocol will you be able to identify? Feel free to report back on what you think of the movie.

  2. Dr. Kimberly May says:

    The CDC has a good page on their site about Contagion and the fact and fiction of disease outbreaks.

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