Outbreak…Could it happen to us? Or do we see any rise in the Flu as such?

The movie Outbreak was really interesting to me from an epidemiological and pathological standpoint. Maybe it’s just my interest in nursing coming out, but it seems the topic of diseases is always entertaining. The movie especially reminded me of a book I read back in high school called The Hot Zone, and apparently for good reason. Surprisingly, when I looked it up, I found out that the movie is based on the real Ebola outbreak in Zaire, now the Democratic Republic of Congo. The book, by Richard Preston, describes the same virus outbreak and how it eventually made its way to the US.

Just like in the movie, the disease Ebola starts in the jungles of Africa where people share close encounters with plants and animals. As portrayed in the movie, it is easily spread among monkeys. The disease first arose in the 1970’s infecting many victims, and then resurfaced again in 1994. It is actually a strange coincidence; the book was published in 1994. Many readers here were scared because it graphically described the disease and then followed the story of how it came to infect animals at a facility in Reston, Virginia (not far from DC). That same year, the virus reappeared in Gabon, a neighboring country to Zaire. This proves how the land created and spread the virus since the only men infected in this incident were gold-panners in the forests. Obviously, they contracted it from what they ate or drank while there.  

Although no Americans, or small Californian towns, were affected by the virus in real life, the movie portrays a huge outbreak that leads to the fear and chaos of groups of people. While the Ebola virus is still deemed as Biosafety Level 4 because it has a high mortality rate and no cure, there is no immediate threat of infection still today. This brings up my next point.

In a world where we’ve seen such destructive viruses as smallpox, tuberculosis, SARS, Yellow Fever, and even the Bubonic Plague…In a world where Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever is classified under higher safety standards than HIV, why does the world freak out about Swine Flu? Yes, I understand that if not treated it can cause death. But seriously, we just watched a movie about a virus (that really exists as Ebola) that kills in a couple days and has a 100% mortality rate. There were several students ‘quarantined’ at school last year, whom we sit beside today. It’s just the flu. Now if they had a form of this Motaba virus, or the real Ebola virus, they would not still be here. Just like any epidemic, the infection will eventually die down; granted I do understand that they dissipate so quickly because of human intervention and isolation. I can recall just in my lifetime when the threat of any virus caused widespread panic and CDC action: Swine fly, Bird Flu, West Nile Virus, Anthrax, SARS, Cholera. Even if viruses now cause infection and death, it’s never on such a catastrophic level that we cannot recover. Give it a year or two and the majority of the news-breaking diseases will be long gone. The CDC will isolate to a few individuals, find a treatment, and send out huge publicity of preventative measures. Not saying there is no reason to worry about these diseases, but I see them more as entertainment and interesting historically than a real threat to mankind’s existence.



Lindsey Bell

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