HCM 762: Global Health
Disease on the Screen
Disease on the Screen
The movie chosen for this assignment is the “Andromeda Strain”, a 1971 movie directed by Robert Wise. The movie was based on a novel by Michael Crichton. I chose this movie because I wanted to know about the perception of global health over forty years ago. Some of the contemporary diseases like SARS, Avian Flu, and swine flu that threaten global health today were either unheard of or little were known about them forty years ago. Disease or crisis, especially the one presented in this movie was meant to be taken seriously because it had severe ramifications for humanity if left uninvestigated. The organism or crisis presented in this movie had the capacity to kill an entire village except two individuals (an adult and an infant). The specific organism had the propensity to travel beyond the boundary of it original discovery (a little village in New Mexico with a population of 68 people) and perhaps kill the entire of the US and the world. Multiple perspectives were provided. Initial investigators who tried to understand the situation were not sure how the people died. They wondered if the organism that caused death was inhaled or penetrated the skin to kill or even if the people committed suicide. They even wondered if the organism was related to the crushed satellite returning to earth from space. Another perspective is the ability of the Andromeda Strain to mutate with capabilities of melting plastic when the mystery seemed to have been solved. The driving force for seeking a cure for this disease was the fact that little or nothing was known about the organism which had virtually wiped out the entire population of Piedmont, New Mexico. The circumstances surrounding the dead bodies discovered were strange. None of the victims with cuts bled to death. Instead, their blood had clotted and turned into powder upon death. The authorities in the US including the four doctors who helped to unravel the situation feared the birds that ate the remains of the dead bodies could spread the organism far and wide. The origin of the situation was a material that functioned as nuclear reactor (later unraveled and code named Andromeda strain) which when inhaled, causes death. The nuclear reactor-like material resulted from a US government satellite returning from out of space and crushed in Piedmont, New Mexico. The only chance of surviving inhalation of the Andromeda strain was either an acidic or alkaline blood pH. The adult survival’s blood was acidic due to excessive alcohol consumption in hope suppressing his stomach ulcer. The infant had blood pH levels close to alkaline due to starvation and excessive crying. Exposure of a guinea pig and monkey in the special laboratory at Wildfire, Nevada to the Andromeda strain killed them instantly. Recent threat of chemical and other weapons of mass destruction especially by terrorist groups and “illegitimate” governments across the world coupled with a recent announcement by the Pentagon that the US intelligence is incapable of detecting nuclear weapons programs in other countries makes the theme of this movie plausible. For example, the international multilingual Russian-based television network, RT, on October 15, 2013 reported that the Russian government thwarted plots to bomb chemical weapons facility in Russia. The planned attack would have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of people in the Russian city of Kirov. Possession of nuclear weapons by developing countries like India with less than desirable capabilities to defend it of terrorist groups having access to it make this movie more plausible. The impact of a collision of an out of galaxy object with the earth represents deadly image for most people in the space science community. One particular situation in the movie that seemed unrealistic is the five minute countdown to self destruct mechanism Doctor...
References: 1. RT, (2013, October 15). Russia Thwarts Plot to Bomb Chemical Weapons Facility. Retrieved on January 25, 2014 from http://rt.com/news/arrest-terrorists-chemical-weapons-216/
3. PJ Media, (2014, January 25). US Incapable of Detecting Foreign Nuclear Weapons Programs. Retrieved on January 26, 2014 from http://pjmedia.com/tatler/2014/01/25/us-incapable-of-detecting-foreign-nuclear-weapons-programs/
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