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STEM Movie Spotlight: Contagion

By Rital Miller and Joslyn Stamp

Soon after her return from a marketing business trip to Hong Kong, Beth Emhoff dies from what is some type of infection. Beth's son dies later the same day from what is apparently the same infection yet her husband is immune to the sickness. Several days pass before the doctors realize that there will be a spread of an unknown and uncurried deadly illness. The doctors must first identify the type of virus. After that, finding a means of preventing a mass spread of disease will likely take several months. As the contagion spreads to millions of people worldwide, societal order begins to break down as people panic.

After the recent pandemic of COVID-19, this movie really highlights an accurate process of the global panic within communities and in hospitals. Contagion shows a society wreaked by more than just a virus, but the breakdown of society and the difficulties to find a cure. This movie highlights that misinformation can also be worse than the virus itself. In the movie, a character named Alan Krumwiede spreads false ideas through the internet, including that the virus is genetically engineered so that the government could profit after releasing a “vaccine”. He goes on and says that his own daily supplements will cure the disease after sharing a video of him having symptoms but then suddenly getting better. This can relate to the information spread about COVID when a portion of the U.S. thought it wasn’t real or deadly. There was also a “cure” going around the internet to inject or drink bleach after former President Trump said it in an interview. We think this can also shed light on the social aspect of a pandemic since with so much false information it can get overwhelming when trying to make your own judgment. So although this movie was released in 2011, a lot of its characteristics can mirror those of the pandemic that began in 2020. This 11-year difference brings in an old perspective of a modern-day pandemic from the movie and we can see it is very accurate in depicting that.

There are dozens of careers that can be pursued through this movie, especially in the medical field. An example is an epidemiologist. In the movie, doctors must work together to stop the spread of this unknown virus. An epidemiologist would study and try to classify the disease while identifying who is at risk. Once the virus is identified, they learn how to cure and prevent its spread while making sure it will not happen again. Another job would be the nurses and doctors who work on the front lines to help treat patients. During COVID, we had thousands of nurses and doctors use their time to help patients and distribute the vaccine. This can empower our future generations to study and treat illnesses to lower the mortality rate due to deadly viruses.

We would not recommend this movie to children under the age of eight because of the many deaths that occur throughout the movie. We say anyone 13+ would enjoy this movie and could find it relatable to them because of factors of the past like COVID-19. Overall, this movie is great at entertaining an audience, especially by demonstrating what could be the outcome of our questions about what could happen if there is another mass outbreak of diseases.

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