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Coronavirus and Contagion: Freaked out people watching the 2011 movie

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The Coronavirus outbreak that originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan has claimed at least 170 lives by the end of Wednesday, January 29. There have been at least 7,711 confirmed cases and an additional 12,167 suspected cases, mostly in China. The virus has spread to over a dozen countries. What do Coronavirus and Contagion movie have in common? Well, let’s just say sometimes art imitates life and sometimes life imitates art.

Coronavirus and Contagion plot resemblance

Director Steven Soderbergh’s 2011 sci-fi thriller was about nine years ahead of time. Its plot bears a stark resemblance to the current headlines about the Coronavirus. And it’s freaking people out. The Contagion movie starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Matt Damon is about a China-born virus that causes a global epidemic that kills 25 million people.

Nearly a decade after its release, Contagion is garnering a lot of views on the iTunes and Amazon Prime Video. People are drawing comparisons between Coronavirus and Contagion. On Tuesday, the sci-fi thriller entered the top 10 on the iTunes movie rental chart. It shares the space with recent releases such as Joker, Ford vs Ferrari, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, and Parasite. 

After peaking on Tuesday, Contagion has slipped through the ranking, but remains among top 15 at the time of this writing. The movie owes the sudden spike in viewership to the Coronavirus outbreak. Interest in the film started going up on January 18, according to Google Trends, as the Coronavirus epidemic continued to spread rapidly.

Coronavirus and Contagion movie
Image source: Google Trends (screenshot)

Contagion is not the only Hollywood film that has risen up the charts following the Coronavirus outbreak. Director Wolfgang Petersen’s 1995 thriller Outbreak has also broke into top 100 at 74th place on the iTunes movie rental chart. Outbreak revolves around a group of army doctors trying to find cure to a virus brought to the United States by an African monkey.

The Contagion movie follows a woman who goes on a business trip to Hong Kong. When she returns home to Minnesota after a layover in Chicago, she experiences fatigue and cold-like symptoms. She blames these symptoms on jet lag, but dies within 24 hours. Her young son also dies. Turns out, she had contracted a deadly virus from a chef in Hong Kong who handled dead animals infected by bat.

Played by Matt Damon, her husband is immune to the virus and survives. Public health officials scramble to identify and contain the disease. Before a vaccine is found, the virus claims at least 25 million lives worldwide. The film grossed $136 million at the box office. It was produced by Participant Media and Distributed by Warner Bros.

About the Coronavirus outbreak

The new Coronavirus has been named 2019-nCoV by the World Health Organization. According to scientists, it’s more contagious than the SARS epidemic of 2002-2003. However, the new Coronavirus is not as deadly. It has a fatality rate of 3-4% compared to 9.6% that SARS had.

China has locked down at least 14 cities to contain the virus, but it continues to spread across China and other countries. A number of airlines are suspending flights to and from China amid the outbreak. United Airlines, British Airways, American Airlines, Cathay Pacific, Air India, and several others have either reduced the number of flights or stopped flying to China entirely.

The Coronavirus is said to have jumped from animals to humans in China’s wet markets, where humans and live and dead animals are in close proximity. It transmits through air.

The initial symptoms of the Coronavirus include fever, cough, and breathing difficulties, according to WHO. Other symptoms are a runny nose, sore throat and headache. In severe cases, it could also cause pneumonia and kidney failure. The virus has an incubation period of up to 14 days, meaning it could take up to two weeks to show symptoms.

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