How to Survive a Pandemic, According to Hollywood

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The West African Ebola outbreak has, as of this writing, killed 887 people and is far from being contained. Two Americans who contracted the virus have been flown to Atlanta for treatment, a decision which has many questioning how long it will be before we're facing a similar situation as Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The short answer is: we probably won't. Health care, general hygiene, and awareness are generally much better here than they are in poor, rural areas of Africa. Ebola's relatively rapid onset and lethal nature (it kills up to 90 percent of its victims), along with the fact that contact with an infected person's bodily fluids, keep it from being a realistic global threat. Almost 900 have died, true, but 1.5 million will die of malaria this year as well.

But fine, Ebola is horrifying because it basically liquefies your internal organs and turns you into Sissy Spacek during the last 15 minutes of Carrie. Over a hundred thousand will succumb to the flu in this country this year, but by all means, continue to freak out about the non-airborne diseases out there. I mean, it isn't like the movies have already given us plenty of pointers for avoiding them.

Never Trust A Monkey, Or Patrick Dempsey -- Outbreak (1995) They should have just filmed Richard Preston's Hot Zone, which was ten thousand times more terrifying -- Ebola! In suburban Virginia! Visit American Tap Room at your peril -- than fictionalize it with a government conspiracy twist, which were pretty popular at the time (see also, The X-Files). It's also comforting to think both this movie and Return of the Living Dead hit upon similar "extreme prejudice" containment solutions.

Pick Your Camping Companions Wisely -- Cabin Fever (2002) Specifically, avoid picking fights with drifters or the homeless, and if you start vomiting blood, try and avoid having intercourse with anyone. At least, anyone you're fond of.

Thank God, The Military's Here -- The Crazies (1973) A common theme in movies like this early George A. Romero effort, and one going all the way back to the 1950s, is how the armed forces may not have the general public's best interests in mind when the shit hits the fan (see also The Stand, It Came From Outer Space, or any of Romero's other latter era Dead films). I'm not saying you should abandon all hope once the troops show up to enforce a quarantine, but I'd definitely do my best to appear asymptomatic.

"The Toppings Contain Potassium Benzoate" -- The Stuff (1985) By now you should know to always be wary of fad diets, especially anything so deliciously zero calorie it runs afoul of Big Dairy (or that oozes from holes in the ground, but that last part should go without saying). Paranoid? Perhaps, but just wait until the FDA tells us gluten is actually the most important building block of our immune system.

Put The Goddamn Camera Down -- REC (2007) At concerts, using a camera to film the proceedings can either be merely annoying or forbidden by the band/venue. Surreptitiously taping a movie in the theater will earn you various penalties up to and including fines or imprisonment. When dealing with a contagion that turns its victims into bloodthirsty savages, however, dragging that hardware around can be a fatal hindrance. It's possible your painstakingly shot video record will help others defend themselves, but that's small solace when you're dragged screaming to your death.

Don't Cheat On MATT DAMON -- Contagion (2011) Steven Soderbergh's take on the "diseaster epic" is about one-half gripping suspense film, one-half incoherent, disjointed mess. One thing we can all agree on, it was Gwyneth Paltrow's philandering, bat-infected pork eating ass that kicked the whole thing off. Guess they ran out of artisanal hand soap on Goop.

Time Travel Won't Save You -- 12 Monkeys (1995) In the end, it didn't matter if Bruce Willis went back to WWI, to 1996, or to ... I don't know ... kill Hitler. Humanity is still doomed, and Brad Pitt still loses the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor to Kevin Spacey. I'M TELLING YOU IT'S KEYSER SOZE!

If You Hear BOC, Kiss Your Ass Goodbye -- The Stand (1994) Unless the actual prescription for the 'Captain Trips' fever *was* more cowbell. Just imagine all the lives that could have been saved.

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