Contagion: It's Not Just Fiction

Premise 'will almost certainly occur,' writes Dr. Larry Madoff
By Evann Gastaldo,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 12, 2011 12:34 PM CDT

(Newser) – Bad news for those of you, who after seeing Contagion, reminded yourself comfortingly, “It was only a movie:" According to one epidemiologist, the frightening premise put forth in the film “will almost certainly occur.” The plot deals with a virus breaking out of its niche and wreaking havoc, an idea that “is very believable.” What’s more, the movie’s science “is uncannily true, with rare exceptions,” and it hits the relevant points of disease emergence with “near-documentary accuracy and precision,” writes Dr. Larry Madoff in the Atlantic.

With all the advances modern medicine has made, “it is easy to forget about public health and the threat of emerging infectious diseases.” Many poo-pooed swine flu as a “dud,” despite "hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide," writes Madoff. That’s because public health is doing its job well—meaning that little happens—but the danger is still there. “At a time when public health expenditures can, in all seriousness, be called ‘discretionary’ by politicians arguing for deficit reduction at the expense of public health,” Madoff concludes, “we need to be anything but complacent.”

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