I actually own this movie. When I first saw this movie in 2011, I was both terrified and inspired. “Contagion” directed by Steven Soderbergh, written by Scott Z. Burns is a horrifying thriller of the spread of a new virus, a respiratory disease that is both an airborne illness also spread by direct physical contact with a high mortality rate.
Something covered in the movie regarding transmission of disease is an infection’s R0, the average number of people someone who is sick will infect. The R0 (R “Nought”) of Seasonal flu is approximately 1.3. The R0 of Ebola is 2. The R0 of Smallpox is 6. The R0 of Pertussis (Whooping Cough) is up to 17. One of the most infectious diseases is Measles with an R0 estimated to be 18.
“The average person touches their face 2-3,000 times a day.”
The virus in “Contagion” starts in rural areas outside of Hong Kong spreads to Chicago, Illinois, and then to Minneapolis, Minnesota. Imagine every surface touched on an international flight, the passengers and travelers you are around, the waiters you come in contact with, the rooms you go into, and on and on.
When there is a high R0, the disease rapidly spreads and then is transmitted in every direction rapidly. The R0 for COVID-19 is estimated to be between 2.0 to 2.5.
With an R0 of 2, you start with 2 sick people, then 2×2=4, then 4×4=16, next it is 16×16=256 and 256×256=65,536. “X” number people who are infected squared.
One percent of the world’s population were killed by Spanish flu outbreak that started in 1918. One third of the world’s population became infected. An estimated 50 million people died and the age group most affected were healthy adults between the ages of 15 to 34 years old. The estimated R0 of Spanish flu was 1.4-2.8, a mean of 2.
The film featured self-quarantining, social distancing, closing down state borders, but also some of the ugly parts of fear and a scarcity mentality with limited access to the vaccine, food supplies, looting, and home invasions.
The movie features a star-studded cast including Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Laurence Fishburne, Marion Cotillard, Jude Law and Kate Winslet.
There was a really cool featurette on the DVD too, called “Contagion: How a Virus Changes the World.”
Here’s a quick fact from the featurette:
“Researchers estimate that if everyone washed their hands regularly, one million deaths could be prevented each year.”
For more information, check out: takepart.com/contagion