Lessons learnt from the movie Contagion

Did the makers of the movie Contagion has a premonition about a looming pandemic? Even though the movie hit the theaters almost 9 years back, the similarity between the movie’s storyline and current pandemic COVID-19 is startling. Sadly, our lives have more in common with this movie today than any other factual interludes of recent past. Isn’t it ironic that Contagion received a lot of flak when it was released? A frightening, unsettling, scary, and an apocalyptic holocaust: the movie was welcomed with hypercriticism, particularly in the imputation of profanities. Some even went ahead to say that the film was akin to a public health information documentary creating unnecessary chaos.

Contagion featured Gwyneth Paltrow as a suave businesswoman who collapses suddenly in her kitchen after returning from a Hong Kong trip. The intimidating scene overwhelmed the human race all across the globe, especially the one showing Paltrow’s cranial autopsy. Interestingly, a mock-drill exercise coded “Crimson Contagion” was conducted by Department of Health and Human Services in Chicago in August 2019. This simulation exercise was administered to test the capacity of US federal government and 12 US states in dealing with a sudden pandemic. Sadly, the exercise seems to have gone awry. One could never predict that a virus, and not nuclear warfare, supervolcanic eruptions, asteroid impacts or nanotechnology disasters, would bring life to a halt one day. The movie was actually a warning signal for an underlying threat which has engulfed the world in an undeniably more aggressive menace.

This virus-thriller had indeed given out strong messages to put our ideas into practice-

• Preparedness- Whenever there is an outbreak of a new disease, the first epicenter is caught unawares, without the luxury of any advance notice. In this light, it becomes difficult to curb the spread of the disease in the crucial early weeks.

Unlike in the past, we are living in a digital era today where knowledge and news spread faster than ever before. Therefore, other countries have the luxury of advance notice to fully equip themselves against the spread of the disease, before it shoots to draconian levels. The benefits of technology and advancement in biology should be put to optimum use to prepare the community before it is too late. Cellphones, satellite maps, you-tube videos, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook are best mediums to create phenomenal global awareness. Government should act proactively to create public service messages to educate people about staying safe.

• Investment- With pandemics no longer a work of fiction, its time to invest more on microbe-research than on missiles. There should be more funding for investigating new diseases. From strengthening the health systems to planning vaccine research and health worker training, each country should focus to prepare their epidemiologists and physicians to deal with an epidemic.

They should create medical corps which includes training health workers with the expertise in dealing with a catastrophe of this level. Proper training should be given to pair medical corps and military, taking advantage of the military’s ability of faster response and proper containment to secure areas.

As we continue to grapple with this war between a virus and humanity, hope is our only savior. Let’s remember, there’s light at the end of every tunnel; the sun returns after every storm. Only that, this time we should hope to learn from our mistakes. Meanwhile, Stay Home, Stay safe!

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