Life im­i­tat­ing art im­i­tat­ing life

Mus­ings are thoughts, the thought­ful kind. For the pur­pose of th­ese ar­ti­cles, a-mus­ings are thoughts that might amuse, en­ter­tain and even en­lighten.

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michael Walker

Isup­pose it is my sal­va­tion, my prize pos­ses­sion and my curse that I have a phe­nom­e­nal mem­ory. Faces I am good at; names are more dif­fi­cult; but images are per­ma­nent. So given that I en­joy an almost pachy­der­mic abil­ity to re­call, it is not sur­pris­ing that within min­utes of wal­low­ing in the wake of the tsunami of Ebola hys­te­ria that is presently lay­ing waste to all nor­mal life on our is­land, I thought of the 1995 movie Out­break.

Out­break was an Amer­i­can med­i­cal dis­as­ter film star­ring Dustin Hoff­man, Mor­gan Free­man and a host of other su­per­stars.The film fo­cused on an out­break of a fic­tional Ebola-like virus called Motaba in Zaire, and later in the small town of Cedar Creek, Cal­i­for­nia. Its pri­mary set­tings are gov­ern­ment dis­ease con­trol cen­ters and the afore­men­tioned small town. Out­break's plot spec­u­lates how far mil­i­tary and civil­ian agen­cies might go to con­tain the spread of a deadly con­ta­gion.

The film was a tremen­dous box of­fice suc­cess. It also raised var­i­ous "what-if" sce­nar­ios: me­dia out­lets be­gan to ques­tion what the gov­ern­ment would re­ally do in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion, and whether the CDC had plans in case an out­break ever did oc­cur Mean­while, a real-life out­break of the Ebola virus was oc­cur­ring in Zaire dur­ing the time of the film's re­lease.

In the movie, Motaba was a fic­tional virus that caused a deadly fever in Africa in 1967. To main­tain the virus as a vi­able biological weapon, two U.S. Army of­fi­cers de­stroyed the camp where it was found after tak­ing blood sam­ples from the dy­ing vic­tims.

Twenty-eight years later, in 1995, the virus resur­faced in Zaire. A vi­rol­o­gist, played by Dustin Hoff­man, was sent to in­ves­ti­gate. After his re­turn, he asked his su­pe­ri­ors, who knew the virus was not new, to put out an alert, which they re­fused to do.

Mean­while, we dis­cover that the virus had ar­rived in the USA via a host an­i­mal, a white-headed mon­key that had been smug­gled into the United States by Jimbo, an em­ployee at the Bio-Test an­i­mal hold­ing fa­cil­ity. Jimbo is in­fected with the virus through fa­cial con­tact with the mon­key's saliva.

Not able to care for the mon­key, Jimbo re­leases it into the woods. While fly­ing to Bos­ton, Jimbo starts to show signs of in­fec­tion. When he gets off the plane he kisses his girl­friend just be­fore col­laps­ing. They are both hos­pi­tal­ized and later die of hem­or­rhagic fever.

Mean­while, tech­ni­cians in Cedar Creek run blood tests. One of the tech­ni­cians ac­ci­den­tally breaks a vial, splat­ter­ing the con­tents, in­fect­ing and killing him. The virus mu­tates into a new strain, ca­pa­ble of spread­ing like the flu, and nu­mer­ous Cedar Creek cit­i­zens are ex­posed to Motaba. The vi­rol­o­gist, a.k.a Dustin Hoff­man, learns of the in­fec­tion and flies to Cedar Creek.

Mar­tial law is de­clared in Cedar Creek, and the U.S. Army quar­an­tines the town to con­tain the out­break. One man is in­fected when his suit tears; another per­son ac­ci­den­tally stabs her­self with a con­tam­i­nated nee­dle while col­lect­ing sam­ples. A mys­tery serum, E-1101, is in­tro­duced to those suf­fer­ing from Motaba. How­ever, the serum does not help the res­i­dents of Cedar Creek, who are in­fected by a mu­tated strain. A gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial ad­mits that he with­held in­for­ma­tion on the virus due to na­tional se­cu­rity and Motaba's po­ten­tial to be turned into a biological weapon.

The mil­i­tary plans to bomb the town of Cedar Creek, with ap­proval from the Pres­i­dent of the USA. Some­what amaz­ingly, the mil­i­tary plans to use the bombing to cover up the ex­is­tence of the virus. Dustin Hoff­man ini­ti­ates a search for the host an­i­mal to save the town. He broad­casts a pic­ture it on the news; a woman re­al­izes that this is the an­i­mal her daugh­ter is play­ing with in their back­yard. She calls the sta­tion, and the two men ar­rive at the fam­ily's house; the host an­i­mal is cap­tured, and the bombing is de­layed.

Re­turn­ing to Cedar Creek, they cre­ate an anti-serum. How­ever, Op­er­a­tion Clean Sweep to erad­i­cate the virus and bomb Cedar Creek is al­ready in progress. I'll not spoil the end­ing, but rest as­sured that the res­i­dents of the town are suc­cess­fully res­cued and cured.

As they say: there is noth­ing new un­der the sun. Re­al­ity has fi­nally caught up with Hol­ly­wood. Maybe our lead­ers should spend more time re­lax­ing at the movies in­stead of dash­ing hither and thither chas­ing their tails and search­ing for so­lu­tions. They could even stay at home.

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