Outbreak (1995)

A deadly virus spreads across the ocean from the isolated, impoverished nation of Zaire in Africa, to a rural, quant small California town. In the midst of a 40 year old military cover up, scientist Col. Sam Daniels defies all odds, managing to track down an ocean going vessel, track down and find the host of the disease, a Capuchin monkey named Betsy, and synthesize anti-virals to the most deadly virus the world has ever seen, all in a matter of minutes. If those feats were not impressive enough Major Salt is ably to create enough anti-virals for a town of thousands all from a small mobile lab unit, while simultaneously convincing staunch military bomber pilots to defy a direct order and purposefully miss their target by a considerable distance.

Aside from all of the Hollywood-esc features, the luck of Mrs. Pananides having a “friend” with the Coast Guard, the sheer luck of happening to find the freighter in a small helicopter flying in dense fog, with then being able to find a picture of the host, commandeering a TV station, a mother happening to be watching the news to disclose the location of the monkey. All of this of course happened as our characters were fleeing from General McLintock, and the US military. A question must be posed- once all of the Hollywood, pure luck, type of fate has been removed could something like this actually ever happen.

The answer is yes. Although Motaba does not exist, it is based off of the Ebola virus. The Motaba claims to have a mortality rate of 100%, while actual Ebola ranges between 30 and 80 %. As far as the manor that the virus spread to the Americas, from a monkey to an animal handler, to a pet store owner, to a medical worker, to a room full of people, and eventually to the whole town, it is incredibly plausible. The US imports obscene amounts of foreign goods each year. In this 1995 world (pre 9/11), US policies on border security was definitely slacked. It is definitely a reality that a coughing individual could infect a whole theater. Think of how many times you are in public and someone starts coughing, their germs being propelled into the air, the air you are breathing.  Or take animals in a pet store, at first the virus was spread from physical contact only, so in a pet store where people of all ages rush to pet the “cute animals”, each contact would lead to an infection, which would lead to more infections, a cycle increasing on the exponential scale.

In reality a viral plague is not too far stretched. With people in such close proximity to one another, especially in the public transportation systems of metropolitan areas, it would be fairly easy to spread a disease. In the movie a cure was found in a matter of movie hours, in real life we are talking in a matter of months, before a successful treatment could be realized. Perhaps the events in the beginning of Outbreak are not too far from reality.


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