'Contagion' slams MN Dept of Health

Matt Damon makes us look bad in Contagion

Matt Damon makes us look bad in Contagion

Contagion, a blockbuster film about a deadly pandemic, is making our health department look like a bunch of bumbling fools.

The movie, which topped the box office in its debut this past weekend, grossing $23.1 million, includes an all-star cast: Matt Damon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Winslet, Jude Law. Much of the action takes place in Minneapolis, where evidently our inept health department is clueless about infectious disease.

Clueless. That's the same health department that just last month led the investigation into a national anthrax scare.
"The entire time, the Minnesota Department of Health remained in control and the lead on that investigation, even though the CDC, the FBI, Homeland Security -- everybody -- was interested and involved," says Michael Osterholm, a 24-year veteran of the MDH and professor at the U. "In this case, I thought they very poorly represented the MDH because they needed to create some drama."

The film's writer, Golden Valley native Scott Burns, evidently took a little artistic license with his project--at the expense of his home state's image. In the film, officials from the CDC come in to save the day.

Writing for brandcameo, Midwestern journalist Abe Sauer points out that the MN Health Department has good reason to be pissed.

There are a lot of product "placements" in Contagion, logos and names that appear in passing, backgrounds, and without a great degree of consequence. A crack about Taco Bell here, a Mazda, Audi, or Chevy logo there. But there are really only two or three "brands" that find themselves the focus of the film, and one of them has genuine reason to be sick about the slanderous way Contagion portrays it.

"The Minnesota Department of Health was not officially involved with the film in any way," John Stieger, the department's communications director, told brandchannel. If you've seen the new #1 movie at the US box office, that shouldn't come as a surprise.

At least we don't have to feel so scared here in Minnesota. Not only did our health department take the lead on the recent anthrax case, back in 2007, it also uncovered the mystery of the pig-brain illness that was infecting workers at an Austin pork processing plant.

So enjoy the movie and sleep well at night. Here's a clip: