I finally got around to seeing the film Contagion, a realistic portrayal of what a serious viral pandemic would look like in our day and age. Unlike the vast majority of outbreak films, Contagion gets a lot of the science right. The basic reproductive number R0, for example, makes an appearance in the film. The film’s fictional MEV-1 virus was inspired by Nipahvirus. MEV-1 has an R0 of 2-4 and a mortality rate of ~25% — severe, but realistic. Epidemiologist Ian Lipkin consulted on the film.
My favorite line is when the military asks CDC Deputy Director Lawrence Fishburne if the virus was a bioterrorist attack, like a weaponized bird flu. Fishburne reponds, “No one has to weaponize the bird flu. The birds are doing that.”
The only part I really disliked about the film is how the virus is described as “mutating” or “changing”, but never “evolving”. Unfortunately, this aspect is also a realistic description of our public health system.