'Contagion' Writer Says Coronavirus Pandemic Isn't 'That Surprising': 'This Was a Matter of When'

The 2011 movie Contagion followed as a virus from Asia quickly spread worldwide — and it's eerily similar to coronavirus

As Contagion continues to be a go-to movie for people amid the coronavirus outbreak, the film’s writer is explaining why he doesn’t find the pandemic “that surprising.”

Scott Z. Burns, who wrote the 2011 movie directed by Steven Soderbergh, told Slate in a recent interview that he heavily researched the film with the Center for Disease Control and is surprised audiences are taken aback by “how similar” Contagion is to what’s currently occurring.

“It’s very upsetting to see people getting sick and dying. The part of me that is a human being is more struck by this than the part of me that is a filmmaker,” he said. “That being said, it has been very strange to me, whether on social media or in conversations with friends, that people will say to me, ‘This is uncanny how similar it is.’ “

Burns continued, “And I don’t find it to be that surprising, because the scientists I spoke to, and there were a lot of them, all said that this was a matter of when, not if. So, I guess my feeling as someone who believes in science is that when scientists tell us those things we would do well to listen.”

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.

Contagion Gwyneth Paltrow

The outbreak in the movie 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.

COVID-19 has already spread to over 127,000 people worldwide and caused 4,718 deaths. The U.S. currently has 1,323 reported cases with 38 deaths.

Coronavirus is a blanket term for several respiratory illnesses, ranging from the common cold to more severe viruses such as SARS, or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. The symptoms typically include trouble breathing, fever, coughing, headache and a sore throat.

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