How Movies Over Sensationalize The Center for Disease Control

The most virulent outbreaks in movies have the CDC virtually sprinting to get onsite and learn just what’s going on so that they can save a mass amount of people before an outbreak can occur. Given that most films need to work within the confines of a two to three-hour time limit at best they have to find a logical way to at least introduce a method or cure that will help to save the people so that the movie can have a happy ending. That is just one thing the movies get wrong. In truth the CDC are not the bunch of super-scientists and heroic humanitarians that are depicted in the movies. They are out to keep people safe and in relatively good health, but they will not generally go against orders as is seen on the big screen.

So what else is different about the CDC in the movies?

It’s kind of a boring place really.

You won’t find the frantic scientists moving quickly from one work station to another and you generally won’t see anyone panicking about  this or that viral outbreak that just occurred in one country or another. The CDC is in charge of keeping the public healthy and safe from any such outbreaks but they’re usually on top of their game and as such the atmosphere is professional but much more laid back than you might see on film. It’s always possible that an outbreak could occur, but even then you’d see more people going about their business doing what they could to contribute to the effort to halt the outbreak, not losing their heads and acting like drama queens.

The kind of gear they wear in films is not always accurate.

Those at the CDC take their jobs very seriously and when they watch certain films depicting their agency it makes them cringe. One of the biggest faux pas in all of film when it comes to dealing with an outbreak is the kind of outfits that are worn. There have been films in which those representing the CDC have been wearing leather jackets and rubber gloves when looking for deadly pathogens. Those at the CDC know better than to take any chances with such things and were disappointed at the lack of protective gear in some films.

The extreme measures taken to contain an outbreak are very far-fetched. 

If an outbreak does happen Hollywood’s normal approach seems to be either find a miracle cure or bomb the affected area and hope it works. This is far too extreme for what the CDC does. At best an area might quarantined until a cure or at least something able to stop the outbreak can be found or developed. Bombing a town to save the world is something a Hollywood director would see as reasonable, but the CDC is nowhere near this brutal.

To be quite honest life at the CDC is not all glamour and the scientists are not all stars that look off into the distance for a dramatic pause sequence when they feel life pressing down around them. In reality the CDC is another government operation that is there to protect the people, no more and no less.

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