The CDC and Contagion Continued
Oct 17, 2011

Last month, in a post entitled The Villian is a Virus, I wrote about an event I attended in which a special panel of experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provided an inside perspective on the science behind the movie Contagion.  The truth is, just as the organization is portrayed in the movie, the CDC remains constantly vigilant in their efforts to protect us from dangerous health threats that occur not only in this country, but well beyond our nation’s borders.
Sadly, our media reality happens to be, “It’s only news when someone is hurt or killed.” This may explain why the Contagion story-line was even developed as a major motion picture.  Interestingly enough, at this behind-the-scenes event, I was able to get a glimpse of all the incidents that are so routinely avoided.  Unfortunately, it’s hard to generate interest about something that’s been prevented.  After all, if it never happened, how could it be newsworthy?
However, that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try out best to recognize our successes.  How many times have we been able to contain a dangerous disease?  How many vaccines do we now have that protect against diseases that often afflicted children in the generations before us?  And how many lives have been sparred because of them?
If you are looking to hear a bit of reality, and not just Hollywood hype, I encourage you to check out the video below.  It highlights the frank conversation between a curious crowd of typical movie-goers and a panel of public health experts.  In this video, CDC Director Tom Frieden is joined by Dr. Ali Khan who is currently the Director of CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Dr. Anne Schuchat who serves as the Director of CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, to speak about their real-life experiences in investigating dangerous and deadly diseases.  Their personal contributions serve as an excellent reminder of why we should remain vigilant in our efforts to protect our nation’s public health.
Even though interest in the movie Contagion has already faded, the possibility of some contagious disease gaining Hollywood-worthy headlines remains.  In fact, it’s often just a plane ride away.    While that may be frightening to consider, it’s important that we continue to applaud the work that is being done to ensure good public health, whether that be by promoting diligent handwashing, covering our coughs or vaccinating ourselves and our children.  We all share this one world and like it or not, that means we are all somehow connected.  Contagions and all.

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