Contagion predictions eerily true about the pandemic…what about the next stage?

Contagion has been scarily predicting the course of the world’s pandemic. It’s eerie. Have you watched Contagion?

I rewatched the 2011 movie last night to see what might be next during our current global crisis, since the film’s been so accurate showing what happened so far. Here are my cursory Contagion notes, and one hopeful thought to carry us through this difficult time.

(This isn’t a scientific article… just a few comments and opinions.)


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Contagion, Outbreak and CoVid-19 background

  • Both viruses began in wild animals disturbed in their natural habitats in China. Both involved transmission from bats, to other mammals, to humans.
  • The Contagion virus is far more deadly than CoVid-19. However, the CoVid 19 virus keeps getting worse. The real death rate is less, but it’s so contagious that our R0 is considered a 3 in most places. As in, for everyone with the virus, they will pass it on to 3 others. For reference this is considered high. Very.
  • The Contagion virus sort of lies between the fictitious Motaba epidemic in Outbreak and our current pandemic. Motaba is highly transmissible and 100% deadly. The Contagion virus has a lower RO and a high death rate. CoVid-19 has a high transmission ability and a relatively low death rate. This is both our salvation and our problem.
  • While CoVid-19 is more like a very bad flu for people — most cases resolve at home after a few weeks of quarantine — it’s insanely contagious…therefore, more people are dying overall. And because the latency period is up to two weeks (when you are still shedding viruses, but are not symptomatic), contact tracing is a Herculean task! How many people and surfaces have you touched in two weeks? How many people and surfaces have you touched in a normal day? It’s mindbogglingly complicated.

Contagion’s scary and accurate predictions:

  • Supply lines are down: With CoVid, it started with toilet paper, of all things, and then moved to meat. Burger joints like Wendy’s put up signs that only so many burgers would go out a day. We’ve seen long food lines each day. In Contagion, they made a point of showing lines for MREs (Meals, Ready to Eat) running out of food for people waiting in lines.
  • Riots: In Contagion, the riots led to mass stealing and loss of life. In real life, it’s worse: we have have protests act as an excuse to riot, loot, and even kill for people to get what they perceive they need.
  • In Contagion, people are seen to enter neighbors’ homes to shoot the occupants, take what they need, and leave Scott-free. So far we have not reached that level of inhumanity. But with Contagion being so prescient thus far, I have to wonder how far this is off.

A hopeful end to our pandemic if Contagion is still prophetic:

  • In my rewatch, I did forget that the CDC found a realistic vaccine for their virus by Day 121. I think that’s not realistic with a slippery flu-like coronavirus, but it’s an optimistic view in a film that managed to predict in 2011 what would occur in 2020.
  • For a real-life interpretation, the fastest turnaround for a pandemic virus vaccine was 4 years with the Mumps. It’s been a while since then, but the best guesses say we won’t have a safe, realistic and readily available vaccine until next summer: remember, BEST GUESS.  Scientists seem to agree that there will be a new and terrible second wave come Fall. And unless we have immunologists willing to infect themselves over a possible vaccine (as shown in the movie), we’re facing a long and involved set of years in human testing trials.
  • That Contagion ended on the ‘happy’ note of ending the pandemic within a year is unlikely. However, everything else has been right on target, including food shortages, riots, looting, and the shooting of bystanders.

I don’t believe this movie is the exact prophecy for our future. But it’s been so on track so far. Maybe normalcy will happen in a time frame we can live with, as in Contagion, instead of the dismal next few years the current news predicts.

In the meantime, say safe, wash your hands, use gel, and stay at least 6 feet apart. Protect each other by wearing your masks. Go read the guidelines at the CDC. We can’t do this without everyone’s help. Look at New Zealand  — they’ve eradicated the virus and life has returned to normal. We can do this.

Be smart. Be vigilant. Let’s get our lives back.

Watching Outbreak in the time of CoVid-19

Does Contagion have an Extra Scene: A Chilling End Note

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