Medicine in Media: Contagion

What happens when a bat drops a half-eaten banana in a pig pen is southeast Asia?  For Contagion, it means a pandemic bigger than the 1918 Spanish Flu.  This movie explores the modern reaction by government, society and individuals when faced with a world-wide epidemic. A business traveler in Southeast Asia comes into contact with a new viral infection that she brings to the U.S.  The virus is spread during her layover in Chicago on her way back to Minneapolis.  The film basically shows 3 perspectives for dealing with or handling the illness.  The first, and really the government perspective, centers around the Centers for Disease Control and its personnel and how their rules and regulations are carried out – or not – and their reaction to the contagion.  The second is the personal and individual effect on a family unit coping with death, loss, boundaries and the disintegration of societal morals and norms.  The last perspective, and probably the least explored or presented is the direct overall global effect of the pandemic on society.  We get glimpses of looting and mass graves but it all felt much more peripheral than central.  All in all it is an interesting movie and when I asked a local global health expert how realistic it was, she indicated that although it is a Hollywood rendition, it had a firm basis in reality.  Rent or stream it when you get a chance – it’s worth a viewing.

John D. Jones, Education & Reference Department