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The Dos and Don’ts of Surviving a SciFi-Style Outbreak

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Swine Flu! H1N1! Call it what you like, the W.H.O. and news outlets around the world would have you believe sky has started raining blood. Indeed, the panic that ensued the announcement of this strain was more deadly than the virus itself (which, incidentally, has a lower mortality rate than the common flu). One word is on everyone’s lips: Pandemic. And science fiction loves a pandemic. So what can it teach us about the dos and don’ts of surviving this new crisis?

Don’t Trust the Military — They Might Be Responsible
In 1995’s Outbreak, Motaba — a deadly virus very much like Ebola — makes the jump between animals and humans and decimates the town of Cedar Creek, California. Needless to say, the virus ends up being a mutation of another strain that the military tested in Africa back in the 1960s, and which they were keeping in reserve as a biological weapon. Going to them for help (especially when their last quarantine consisted of firebombing everything in sight), is a bad idea. Still there’s good news: If they created the pandemic, they might have a vaccine for it.

Don’t Attempt Nuclear Containment
This is a lot like curing the disease by killing the patient, and for the government that means a lot of dead taxpayers! But more importantly, it probably wouldn’t work. In Robert Wise’s 1971 adaptation of Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, it quickly becomes apparent that the coagulating virus ravaging America is not only uncontainable, but will mutate when exposed to energy. Mutating virus means whatever progress you made to contain it is now lost, which is bad. 

Do Watch Out for Zombies
Really, ’nuff said. But if you need proof, take a look at Danny Boyle’s 2001 neo-zombie classic, 28 Days Later. And while we’re talking about 28 Days Later

Do Rely on the Kindness of Survivors
Sure, it’s tempting to think that you alone can save the day, but there are six billion people on this screwball planet. It’s unlikely you’re the last man on Earth. If 28 Days Later is anything to go by, your country might have just been quarantined by the uninfected nations of the planet until the disease dies off — meaning rescue might eventually be on the way. Even if you are the last undiseased human on earth, keep in mind that the infected might simply represent the next evolution of mankind, as Charlton Heston learned in 1971’s The Omega Man. In that case, it’s not wise to convince them they need “curing.”

Don’t Try Time Travel — It Won’t Work
As Terry Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys poignantly illustrates, if you try to go back in time to right the plague that destroyed humankind, you’re not only likely to cause the entire thing in the first place, you’re guaranteed to do so. Stay calm, and whatever you do, don’t break out the DeLorean.

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Click here to see a full schedule of Outbreak on AMC.

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