'Contagion' Medical Consultant Tests Positive for Coronavirus: 'It Can Hit Anybody'

Dr. Ian Lipkin said it remains unclear where he contracted the virus

Contagion Gwyneth Paltrow

A chief medical consultant on the 2011 pandemic film Contagion has tested positive for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19).

On Tuesday, Dr. Ian Lipkin, the director of Columbia University’s Center for Infection and Immunity, spoke to Fox Business about the pandemic, warning the public to take the virus seriously as it can spread to anyone.

“I would just like to say on this show tonight that this has become very personal for me, too,” he said, revealing that he tested positive for “COVID as of yesterday.”

“And it is miserable,” he admitted. “If it can hit me, it can hit anybody. That’s the message I want to convey.”

Lipkin said it remains unclear where he contracted the virus, however, it “doesn’t matter” as the “virus can be found all over the United States.”

As of March 25, there have been at least 53,934 confirmed cases of the virus and 728 deaths in the United States, according to a New York Times database.

Dr. W. Ian Lipkin

The movie Contagion starts with Gwyneth Paltrow’s Beth, who brings the illness home after a business trip in the Asian country and is dead within 24 hours. Contagion goes on to dramatize an outbreak, with the death toll eventually hitting 2.5 million in the U.S. and 26 million worldwide.

Lipkin assisted director Steven Soderbergh on the film to make it seem more realistic. According to USA Today, some of the scenes in the film are based on Lipkin’s work on the 2003 SARS outbreak in Beijing and his time in quarantine upon returning to the U.S.

Contagion is spurring more views because the outbreak depicted in the thriller feels eerily similar to the current one.

In January, as the virus began to infect the population in China, the film shot up to the top of the iTunes chart. In the film, the mysterious virus originates in Hong Kong before travelers coming back to America bring it with them and infect the population.

“We have porous borders between states and cities and unless we’re consistent, we’re not going to get ahead of this thing,” Lipkin added. “We really don’t know when we’re going to get this under control.”

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments and visit our coronavirus hub.

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