A new strain of flu found in bats is terrifyingly close to becoming the real life Contagion. For those who didn't see the movie, be thankful. Those of us who did are terrified right about now.
In the movie, a mutant strain of flu born from strains from both pigs and bats mixed together wipes out a huge chunk of Earth's population in a very short period of time. It's disturbing. It's scary. And now, it seems it's real. Cue the horror music.
Flu bugs have been spotted in humans, birds, and pigs and some have been seen in dogs, horses, seals, and whales, but a couple claims from Russian virologists who said they found flu in bats hadn't been documented. Until now. The research was published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Freaky, no?
Scientists say these bats caught the flu centuries ago and that the virus mutated in a new way into what they have recently found.
For now, it hasn't been found in humans, but it could always swap genes and mutate into something more dangerous, which could start a pandemic. Scared yet?
The truth is, most of these big scares, from bird flu to SARS, haven't amounted to nearly what was feared. But the fact is, biologically and even historically speaking, it's possible and even likely that we will see an event like Contagion in our lives.
If it can happen once, it can happen again, right? The science in Contagion was real and it really is only a matter of time. Steven Soderbergh, who made the movie, also made sure it was plausible as a premise. Several scenes were even filmed at the Atlanta Centers for Disease Control.
CDC senior adviser Barbara Reynolds said: "How the virus unfolds in the movie is true to life in terms of how a virus behaves." Of course, a pandemic requires other circumstances to be just right -- a virus or microbe must cause severe disease, the larger population must be susceptible to it, and there must be person-to-person transmission. We are still a long way from that with this recent bat flu. But it could happen. The film is scientifically accurate.
I don't know about you, but that makes me want to sleep with one eye open tonight.
Does this scare you?
Image via Kristine Paulus/Flickr