Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 12, 2011

Contagion the new Top Gun?

Filed under: Biosecurity,General Homeland Security — by Arnold Bogis on September 12, 2011

The 1986 film “Top Gun” about the Navy’s elite fighter pilots proved to be a huge boon to Navy recruitment.  In fact, recruiters set up tables in the lobbies of movie theaters to sign up people while they were still reeling from the Tom Cruise-induced (helped in no small party by Kelly McGillis) adrenaline rush.  In  addition to reaping the benefits, the military was heavily involved in the production of the film itself.

This past weekend “Contagion” opened up at the box office.  It includes an array of Hollywood stars dealing with an outbreak of a deadly flu strain.  In the past, movies based on bio-hazards rarely were fact-based and almost never invoked a serious response from the public health community.  According to the CDC, this one is different:

"On September 9, Warner Brothers will be releasing the movie Contagion, a fictional drama that portrays CDC and other U.S. and international partners responding to an emerging infectious disease outbreak. We are reaching out to you in an effort to take advantage of this opportunity to provide accurate and potentially life-saving information to the public about how to prepare for a public health emergency.

When asked to respond to the inevitable question about the plot of the movie, “Could this really happen?” CDC is compelled to say,"Not only could it happen, CDC scientists are working 24/7 to find out if it’s happening right now.”

CDC scientists were involved in the film’s production and they are reaching out to promote flu preparedness and educate the public about the CDC’s vital missions.

Wouldn’t it be great if the public health profession received a boost(er) because of a popular film?  While recruiting for public health programs may not reach the Navy’s Top Gun-fueled peak, increased awareness of not only the CDC but also state and local efforts could help persuade decision makers not to balance budgets on the backs of these vital programs.

(h/t to Bill Cummings for the CDC quote, delivered through Eric Holdeman’s “Disaster Zone” blog.)

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Comment by William R. Cumming

September 13, 2011 @ 7:12 am

So what is the cost to train one PhD Epidemiologist vis a vis one F-22 pilot?

I have a friend that completed 200 air missions over N.Viet Nam and I asked how exclusive a club he was in? He said not exclusive at all perhaps 10,000 members. Hey what did Rolling Thunder and other ops achieve long term for the American people?

In the 3400 county areas of the USA how many trained epidemiologists are there at local level? How many nationally? World wide?

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September 13, 2011 @ 9:38 am

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May 16, 2013 @ 2:00 am

[…] the tradition of Navy recruitment at theaters showing “Top Gun,” and what I hoped would be a similar boost for public health from “Contagion,” the National Guard has […]

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August 21, 2015 @ 11:51 am

[…] still lacking the necessary tools to be well-equipped. Finally, some even suggest this should be the Centers for Disease Control’s version of “Top Gun” to attract more people into public health […]

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