In this image released by Warner Bros. Pictures, Jennifer Ehle is shown playing a researcher trying to find a cure for a killer. virus in a scene from the film "Contagion." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures)

Washington's health secretary says "Contagion" movie is very real

Talk about a horror movie. The global outbreak thriller "Contagion" topped the weekend box office and it prompted a lot of extra hand washing and increased hesitance to touch door knobs, hand rails, or just about anything else we all come in contact with. Of course it's prompting many to ask if the fictional story of an unknown virus spreading around the world in a matter of days can come true.

"What was rolling around in my mind was when SARS happened," Washington Secretary of Health Mary Selecky told Seattle's Morning News on 97.3 KIRO FM. "And then of course, there was H1N1 (commonly known as Swine Flu,) it was an unknown novel virus just like in the movie."

She said just like in the movie, we didn't know what it was or how to treat it, and we didn't have a vaccine. Of course, the big difference is 14 million die in the film (including superstars Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Winslet.)

Selecky said "Contagion" does a good job of showing what public health experts do to try and identify and stop the spread of infectious diseases.

But she says the biggest outbreak we should worry about is what she calls an "epidemic of fear" that could cause rioting, looting, or other break downs in society. She said it was most recently on display amidst the worries of radiation spread after the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami that destroyed the Fukishima nuclear power plant. "That epidemic of fear sent people to grocery stores to empty shelves and things like that," she said.

Selecky said she can only take real issue with one part of the movie: a lone state health official, much like her, worries about who's budget would pay to set up an emergency medical facility.

"That's when my eyes rolled. That's when I literally and verbally groaned in the movie," she said.

Josh Kerns, Reporter
Josh Kerns is an award winning reporter/anchor and host of KIRO Radio's Seattle Sounds (Sunday afternoons 5-6p) and a digital content producer for
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