Outbreak and AIDS

It’s not unusual for me to take things from one class I’m in and make them relevant in another. This is true for my thoughts as I watched the movie Outbreak in class. While I know the virus in the film was most closely based off the Ebola virus, I couldn’t help but relate it to another virus I’ve been learning about. I’m currently taking the American Studies class the 1980s, and we’re reading  And the Band Played On, which talks about the discovery of AIDS. From what I know from this book, I saw a lot of comparisons between the Motaba virus and AIDS.

The first place I saw a similarity was when the Africans were burning the bodies of the sick. Before AIDS was identified, there was a situation in Africa when a lot of people got it, and the Africans were giving the bodies the traditional funeral arrangement of burning their bodies. However, this was actually spreading the disease with the way they were handling the bodies. AIDS is also a virus that originated in Africa, like the Motaba virus.

 One of the first people in the medical field to alert the health industry about AIDS had a history of getting other predictions about diseases wrong. This is similar to Dustin Hoffman, who is reprimanded for taking the virus so seriously in its beginning stage because he’d gotten other things wrong in the past. Both viruses were not understood very well, and had sources that were unknown by doctors.

As the disease progresses, it becomes airborne. There was actually some hysteria about AIDS when people thought that it could be spread by coughing on someone, which actually happens with the Motaba virus as it mutates into an airborne virus. During the early 1980s, there was an article written about AIDS being possible to contract by simple household interaction, and the coughing situation really made me thick of AIDS.

Once the virus began to affect a great number of people in the hospital, a lot of the nurses refused to treat the patients. I’m referring to the autopsy that no one will assist Rene Russo’s character with. This was also true with AIDS, as many nurses were scared to contract the disease. Some would not treat the patients and, in extreme cases, some of the nurses resigned from their work. I thought this hysteria was also similar when Rene Russo’s character is trying to treat Kevin Spacey’s character. She completely, and rightly so, freaks out when she pricks her finger. Accidentally having blood contact with an AIDS patient was obviously an extreme fear as well, which was just one of the reasons that some nurses refused to work with AIDS patients.

The last similarity I saw is kind of a small one, but I thought it was significant enough to mention. The first place that AIDS was discovered was in San Francisco, and I thought it was ironic that the town affected was also in California, and the first place they go outside the town was San Francisco. I thought this was a very eerie coincidence.  Not to mention this film was made a little over a decade after AIDS was discovered.

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