We saw “Contagion” last night–as an official function of my position with the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene (see astmh.org—and note that students can join and receive a top infectious disease journal for $5.00 per year). The film was excellent in all respects. It is more of a chronicle of a hypothetical event than a film with many subplots, with the setting (an outbreak) only providing a stage for a story about a conflict, or a relationship, or….? This film is scientifically accurate, and the movie is surprisingly tight. The concept of the basic reproductive rate (R0) is explained perfectly, and using everyday terminology. The acting was excellent. Ian Lipkin, a high school classmate and now an epidemiologist at Columbia, as well as a virologist and neurologist, was on the set during filming, to make sure that the technical details, including lab procedure, were correct. It is very difficult to really criticize the film. As Dr. Lipkin said in an interview, this may be a wake up call. I add: the scenarios in the film are entirely possible. Some would say even probable–though I won’t go that far. Go see the film, and if possible, see the IMAX version. Think about it. Learn. But do not say or think, “it can’t happen here.” It can. And I hope that we–the public health infrastructure; government units; everyday citizens–are prepared.
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