Here's why people are watching disaster film Contagion as coronavirus spreads

Monday, 9th March 2020, 3:48 pm
Updated Thursday, 12th March 2020, 12:00 pm

The 2011 germaphobia horror Contagion has found itself lifted up the charts by coronavirus panic.

In the UK, Contagion now sits at number seven on the most downloaded film on iTunes charts, which is highly unusual for a film that came out nine years ago (all of the other films in the top 10 were released in the last 12 months).

However, a film about a virus spreading across the planet like wildfire seems to be striking a chord as the coronavirus outbreak continues to worsen.

Here’s everything you need to know about Contagion.

What is Contagion about?

Contagion is Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 medical thriller about a virus which rapidly spreads around the world.

With an all-star cast featuring Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jude Law, Marion Cotillard and Laurence Fishburne, the film follows the frantic quest to track the virus’ origins and the attempts to create a vaccine before it’s too late.

By working alongside World Health Organisation representatives and other medical experts, the film created a frighteningly plausible pandemic based on past viruses like SARS and swine flu.

When it was released, Contagion quickly developed a reputation for playing directly to our germaphobia by drawing attention to how easily germs can spread throughout our society.

Viewers reported leaving the film with a newfound terror of touching anything around them and a strong desire to wash their hands.

Why is everyone watching it now?

Nine years after its release, Contagion has proven eerily prescient in its similarity to the ongoing coronavirus.

The movie’s virus takes place much more dramatically – otherwise healthy patients collapse within days of contracting it, suffering from seizures and falling into comas.

While the death rate for the coronavirus is estimated to be around 2%, the film’s virus kills one in four who become infected.

Unlike the coronavirus, it is not just the elderly and those with pre-existing conditions who are primarily at risk.

However, beyond that it bears a remarkable similarity – a virus which originates in China and is believed to have begun in bats, which rapidly spreads across the planet once humans contract it.

However, viewers turning to Contagion with the hope of reassurance about the current situation are unlikely to come away satisfied.

In the film,countries around the world quickly begin work on a vaccine but, as is the case with coronavirus, the process is time-consuming to the point where it will likely be too late to prevent a pandemic from erupting.

Contagion also details several of the ripple effects which we have already seen with the coronavirus.

These include supply shortages caused by panic-buying, shady online personalities hawking pretend cures, and inadequate government responses as the crisis builds.

Where can I watch it?

Contagion is available now from Amazon and iTunes - to rent for £3.49 and to buy for £7.99.

Sky customers can also rent or buy it from the Sky Store for the same prices.

It is also available from YouTube - £9.99 to buy and £3.49 to rent.

Contagion is not currently available on UK Netflix.

Coronavirus: the facts

What is coronavirus?

COVID-19 is a respiratory illness that can affect lungs and airways. It is caused by a virus called coronavirus.

What caused coronavirus?

The outbreak started in Wuhan in China in December 2019 and it is thought that the virus, like others of its kind, has come from animals.

How is it spread?

As this is such a new illness, experts still aren’t sure how it is spread. But.similar viruses are spread in cough droplets. Therefore covering your nose and mouth when sneezing and coughing, and disposing of used tissues straight away is advised. Viruses like coronavirus cannot live outside the body for very long.

What are the symptoms?

The NHS states that the symptoms are: a dry cough, high temperature and shortness of breath - but these symptoms do not necessarily mean you have the illness. Look out for flu-like symptoms, such as aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose and a sore throat. It’s important to remember that some people may become infected but won’t develop any symptoms or feel unwell.

What precautions can be taken?

Washing your hands with soap and water thoroughly. The NHS also advises to cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when you cough or sneeze; put used tissues in the bin immediately and try to avoid close contact with people who are unwell. Also avoiding touching eyes, nose and mouth unless your hands are clean.

Should I avoid public places?

Most people who feel well can continue to go to work, school and public places and should only stay at home and self isolate if advised by a medical professional or the coronavirus service.

What should I do if I feel unwell?

Don’t go to your GP but instead call NHS 111 or look online at the coronavirus service that can tell you if you need medical help and what to do next.

When to call NHS 111

NHS 111 should be used if you feel unwell with coronavirus symptoms, have been in a country with a high risk of coronavirus in the last 14 days or if you have been in close contact with someone with the virus.

Sources: World Health Organisation and NHS

This article originally appeared on our sister site, The i.