Scientific Adviser on ‘Contagion’ Says ‘We’ve Been Warning People’ About a Possible Pandemic For Years

The 2011 movie Contagion tells the story of a viral disease that infects millions of people around the world. In the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, Contagion has peaked in popularity. Many viewers are noting things in common between the COVID-19 pandemic and the fictional one in Contagion. But a scientific adviser who served as an expert on Contagion was not at all surprised by the recent coronavirus outbreak. She also laments that people didn’t take the film seriously when it was released in 2011.

Contagion
The seventh day of the Lunar New Year celebration on January 31, 2020, in Hanoi, Vietnam| Linh Pham/Getty Images

‘Contagion’ scientific adviser talks about similarities to the coronavirus pandemic

Tracey McNamara was a scientific expert on the 2011 movie Contagion. She told BuzzFeed News that there were many eerie similarities between the COVID-19 pandemic and the film’s fictional disease. The veterinary pathologist said:

The … thing that really rang true in that film is when someone at a press conference asks the character who works for the CDC if this virus had been weaponized, and his response is, ‘Mother Nature weaponized it.’ And that’s also very, very real because that’s what we’ve been warning people about for 20 years.

Coronavirus
The coronavirus under the microscope | BSIP/UIG Via Getty Images

McNamara went on to advise: we will have to be patient when it comes to developing a cure to coronavirus. Contagion shows the long process that a vaccine requires. In the film, there is also a lottery system for the virus vaccine.

“That rings true because to get a vaccine to market and approved by the FDA, it’s a very lengthy process,” the scientist shared with BuzzFeed. Overall, McNamara is disappointed that people didn’t take Contagion seriously at the time.

“I wish people had paid closer attention to it when the film came out,” she said. “Because it really was a warning to the federal government that this could happen and you need to prepare.”

2011 pandemic movie could have taught us more about infectious disease outbreaks

Actress Kate Winslet plays Dr. Erin Mears, a CDC employee in Contagion. Mears “is tasked with helping to find a vaccine and solution for the disease.” McNamara pointed out that Winslet’s character points out a key fact of which many people aren’t aware.

“The average person touches their face [2,000] or 3,000 times a day. That’s three to five times every waking minute,” Mears says in the 2011 pandemic movie. “In between, we’re touching doorknobs, water fountains, elevator buttons, and each other.”

McNamara told BuzzFeed this is “central.” And yet, “ most people just aren’t aware of it.” The publication reported:

While more and more people continue to stream the fictional Contagion while they also try to make sense of the real-life coronavirus. McNamara said she hopes one of the major lessons viewers take away pertains to our society’s response to previously unknown diseases.

Contagion
Actress Marion Cotillard attends the Contagion premiere | Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

However, the veterinary pathologist doesn’t have her hopes set too high.

“I wish I could be optimistic about that,” she said. “But we’ve been warned by the Hendra virus, H1N1, monkey pox, the West Nile, and so many other diseases.” The Contagion adviser hopes that we learn something from the coronavirus pandemic.

“I think the lesson that will come out of this is we need to have another look at how we respond to rapidly evolving novel disease threats,” she told BuzzFeed.