It what feels like an odd contradiction, while a lot of people are stuck at home in quarantine as we try to avoid making the coronavirus outbreak worse, a lot of people are sitting at home watching movies about viral outbreaks. The 2011 film Contagion has seen a major streaming boost in recent days, and now, the movie is back in the headlines again. Unfortunately, it's for one of those art imitates life reasons, as the doctor who was one of the advisers for the Steven Soderbergh film has revealed he has been diagnosed with coronavirus himself.
Dr. W. Ian Lipkin was a senior technical adviser on Contagion, making sure the film got the science right when it came to how viral outbreaks take place. Unfortunately, now Dr. Lipkin is dealing with the results of the current outbreak himself, as he told Fox's Lou Dobbs Tonight that he is currently suffering through the symptoms of coronavirus. The irony of the fact that he is dealing with the virus isn't lost on him. In fact, that's the reason he wanted to bring his infection to the attention of the general public. As Dr. Lipkin put it...
If it can hit me, it can hit anybody. That’s the message I want to convey.
Certainly, a doctor who specializes in infectious disease getting sick feels like a bad omen, but at the end of the day, diseases can spread anywhere and there's only so much one can do to prevent it. Dr. Lipkin says he thinks he knows how he contracted COVID-19, but even he is not entirely sure. He seemed in reasonably good health during the interview, only showing a mild cough, though he said he felt "miserable."
2011's Contagion follows a scenario disturbingly similar to what we're all dealing with now, as a pandemic sweeps the world and the film follows a variety of different characters all dealing with the situation, while doctors and scientists attempt to find a solution.
There's a clear understanding of how virus spreads, and so the possibility of something like this happening was always there. It's part of what makes movies like Contagion so dramatic and terrifying. The reality of the situation was very well known and when you see it in movie form, the general public becomes aware of just how easy it would be for something like this to happen.
Of course, seeing it in the movies and actually living through it are still two very different things. Even a serious dramatic film about terrible events is supposed to be entertaining, and there's nothing entertaining about all this. Still, Dr. Lipkin's warning is worth taking. Anybody can be infected, and that's why we're going to these extreme measures.