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Warning: Pandemic movie and its social media campaign may be contagious

See what a hospital blogger has to say about ‘Contagion’ and check out an interactive website. HealthcareCommunication.com By Ann Tracy Mueller | Posted: September 12, 2011 By the time you read this story, hospitals, physicians’ offices and retirement homes will be abuzz as health care workers share their thoughts on the latest pandemic movie, “Contagion,” from Warner Bros. Pictures, Participant Media and Imagenation Abu Dhabi, which opened this weekend. The film revolves around a virus moving rapidly and infecting millions. This health care editor doesn’t pretend to be a movie critic or an authority on contagious diseases. I probably watch less than a dozen movies a year, most of them old ones or made-for-TV movies. My favorite movie is still the original “True Grit,” and I’m much more likely to watch a chick flick than a disaster film. In fact, I could more realistically lay claim to being a contagious disease expert based on the fact that, in those pre-immunization days, I, the oldest of five, thus first to go to school, had measles, mumps and chicken pox in first grade—and, as an adult, I make sure to get my flu shot each year. But, someone who knows more about contagious diseases—and probably films—Tripp Underwood of Children’s Hospital Boston, did tackle the subject of the new movie on the hospital’s “Thriving” blog. Underwood writes, “Of course it’s a fictional movie, but that’s not to say it’s completely fake. The film’s depiction of how public health workers track the deadly outbreak shows them using a technology similar to HealthMap, a real-life online surveillance system designed to track emerging infectious disease threats.” Underwood says HealthMap “has over a million users a year including regular users from the World Health Organization, the CDC and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control.’ What interests this non-film person, though, is how Participant Media is using social media to raise awareness about how diseases are transmitted and spread. The interactive website – takepart.com/contagion – is really cool, featuring activities like health-related multiple-choice questions, a patient simulation, a world map with virtual push pins marking epidemics, information on pandemic prevention and preparedness, YouTube videos about real-life virus hunters and more. If you’re interested in outbreak movies or want to be able to talk with your fellow health care professionals about this and other such films, be sure to read the Children’s Hospital Boston blog post, where Underwood also takes a look at the pandemic films “Andromeda Strain” and “Outbreak.” http://www.healthcarecommunication.com/Main/Articles/7504.aspx