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Medicine and Media

Medicine and media have become increasingly intertwined in the modern world. From the depiction of medical breakthroughs in Outbreak and The Walking Dead to the dissemination of false information about treatments and cures in Plandemic and the influence of influential figures on the public perception of drugs like hydroxychloroquine, the media has played a prominent role in how the public perceives medicine and health. This paper explores the relationship between the media and medicine by examining how the media has portrayed medical topics such as the Zika virus, the Fauci vs. Mikovits debate, and the use of monoclonal antibody treatments for COVID-19. This paper will also discuss how the media has influenced the decisions of influential figures, the public’s understanding of medical topics, and the scientific research conducted on these topics. While the media can be used to spread accurate and inaccurate information, it can also educate the public about medicine and its potential applications.

Outbreak movie:

The Outbreak, a 1995 movie about a fictional virus outbreak, portrayed the use of an antiserum to treat the population of a small town. This antiserum was described as a monoclonal antibody cocktail, similar to Regen-Cov and Evusheld’s real-life treatments for treating COVID-191. However, the movie’s portrayal of the antiserum production was highly unrealistic. Producing enough antiserum to treat an entire population would require thousands of donors, which could have been accomplished in less than 24 hours, as portrayed in movie 2. Additionally, the movie inaccurately depicted individuals being cured and becoming immune to the virus when the antibodies provided by these treatments do not trigger the formation of memory cells and eventually denature.

Since millions of people streamed Outbreak during the beginning of the pandemic/lockdown, viewers may have been expecting a similar use of an antiserum to treat the COVID-19 Outbreak. However, when the treatments finally became available, viewers were likely disappointed that treatments would not be developed as quickly nor as effectively as portrayed in the movie. Regarding the military scientists portrayed in the film, viewers were likely left with an impression of a team of individuals readily prepared to handle an outbreak with extreme efficiency3. It starkly contrasts the response to the COVID-19 crisis, where governments and healthcare systems were largely unprepared for the pandemic’s scope and challenges.

Walking Dead

The depiction of BSL4 work and lab decontamination in The Walking Dead could have been more accurate. Though the episode showed a facility-wide decontamination procedure, it failed to deliver the essential steps of donning the positive pressure suit, personal protective equipment, and the chemical shower after exiting the lab. Furthermore, the scientist in the clip was seen zoning out while waiting for the TS19 sample, which suggests a lack of focus, which could have led to the accident4. However, the CDC has responded to the episode, claiming that they do have systems in place to prevent the spread of germs, such as safety cabinets, layers of rooms, filters, and corridors between the germs and the outside. Moreover, even during power outages, the CDC has backup generators to maintain negative airflow in BSL-3 labs and neutral air in the case of a BSL-4 lab. Therefore, people need to realize that safety and security are not in jeopardy due to multiple redundancies in place to ensure containment. Viewers may have been concerned about the CDC’s response after this episode. Still, it is essential to understand that worker and public safety are not jeopardized due to multiple redundant systems. For example, the lab has neutral air that neither flows in nor out when the power is lost. It ensures that germs can still be contained and prevented from spreading. Additionally, the CDC has physical barriers and safety cabinets that help to contain germs.

Episode TS-19 of The Walking Dead explores the concept of a BSL-4 lab and decontamination procedures. Viewers may construct an opinion about these topics based on how they are portrayed in the episode. For example, viewers can see the difficulties of decontamination and the risks of working in a BSL-4 lab as the characters attempt to do so5. Additionally, viewers can see the dangers of the lab as the characters battle hordes of walkers. The episode also shows the CDC’s efforts to contain the virus and protect the public. Viewers may have concerns about the CDC’s actions due to episode 2. For example, viewers may perceive the CDC’s attempts to contain the virus as inadequate or too slow. Additionally, the lack of communication between the CDC and the survivors may have raised questions about the CDC’s trustworthiness and transparency.


The use of hydroxychloroquine as a possible treatment for Covid-19 has been a subject of great debate and interest, mainly due to the involvement of President Donald Trump. While laboratory studies may suggest the drug could be effective, when given to patients in reality, it fails to be safe and effective. It is because laboratory research only sometimes accurately portrays how a drug may work in the real world. Additionally, laboratory research can be misinterpreted or portrayed incorrectly in media/social media. For example, news reports have suggested hydroxychloroquine as a “cure-all” for Covid-19, which is not true and can lead to people taking it unsafely.

Influential figures like President Donald Trump have used television and Twitter to influence public perception and interest in hydroxychloroquine. It has caused a surge in demand for the drug, which has led to the drug being hoarded and overprescribed. Furthermore, the results of the medical trials conducted on hydroxychloroquine have been exaggerated, giving patients false hope. It has caused much confusion and has put many people at risk.

President Donald J. Trump has been vocal in touting hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) as a potential treatment for COVID-19, even before the US Food and Drug Administration authorized its use as an investigational drug. From March 1 to April 30, 2020, Trump made 11 tweets and mentioned HCQ 65 times in White House briefings. These tweets had an impression reach of 300% above Donald J Trump’s average6. His tweet on March 21, 2020, advocating for the use of HQC and azithromycin, was one of his most popular tweets, with 385,700 likes and 103,200 retweets. It had a potential estimated impression reach of 78,800,580. Following these tweets, at least 2% of airtime on conservative networks for treatment modalities like HCQ was observed on stations like Fox News.

Additionally, Google searches and purchases for HCQ increased following his first press conference on March 19, 2020, and rose again following his tweets on March 21, 2020. Furthermore, purchases for medicine substitutes, such as HCQ, increased by 200% on Amazon6. Previous studies have shown that individuals with solid influence (i.e., individuals with significant social capital or political power) can affect public decisions and purchasing power. It can be seen with Trump’s impact in this case, as his tweets advocating for HCQ had a high impression reach, leading to increased television airtime, internet searches, and purchases.

Fauci vs. Mikovits:

Social media use can have positive and negative impacts on scientists and doctors. On the positive side, it can allow them to spread their findings and discoveries quickly, as well as to connect with other professionals and engage with the public. For example, Anthony Fauci has used social media to reach out to the public during the HIV and COVID pandemics and has become a global figure in the fight against the virus. Anthony Fauci has led the fight against HIV/AIDS and coronavirus pandemics. He has been a frequent presence on television and in print media, providing updates and advice to the public. He has appeared on famous talk shows such as The Daily Show and Late Night with Seth Meyers and in interviews with news outlets such as The New York Times and CNN. His presence in the media has positively affected his personal and professional life by providing the public with trustworthy information and helping to build trust in science and the medical profession.

However, media can also be misused to spread misinformation, negatively affecting viewers. For example, the video ‘A Doctor Fact-Checks Plandemic’ highlighted Dr. Mikovits’ head-scratching assertions that coronavirus is “activated” by face masks, which is false. It can confuse and may lead to people making incorrect decisions.

Media has also been misused to spread misinformation about Fauci and the coronavirus pandemic. The documentary “Plandemic” was released in May 2020 and made numerous false claims about Fauci, including that he was responsible for the coronavirus pandemic. Medical experts and scientists quickly debunked the film, but the misinformation it spread damaged public perception of the virus, Fauci, and public health measures. This misinformation has contributed to distrust in government and medical professionals and decreased general adherence to health guidelines.

To ensure social media is used positively, scientists and doctors should be careful with the information they post and always ensure it is accurate and current. It is also essential to be mindful of the tone and language used when communicating with the public and be aware of how their words will be interpreted and perceived. Additionally, it is essential to be mindful of the potential for online harassment, which can harm the individual’s professional and personal life. Scientists and doctors should take steps to protect themselves, such as by setting up privacy settings and not engaging with inappropriate comments. Social media can be a powerful tool for scientists and doctors, but it is essential to use it responsibly.

Zika virus:

The media has a considerable influence over how people perceive scientific research, which was seen in the case of the Zika virus research in Hawaii. The press was able to scare many people worldwide with the idea that this could spread to the US, and this caused many people to be misinformed about the virus, the risks, and the scientific methods used7. As a result, Dr. Kumar’s attempts to obtain a permit for his research were hindered due to people’s fear and lack of understanding. Hawaii also lost almost 50 million dollars in federal funding to build the labs and provide jobs. It serves as a reminder of the importance of accurate and responsible reporting of scientific research, as it can have real consequences for those who rely on it8. Therefore, it is the media’s responsibility to report science in an unbiased, responsible way to ensure that it does not create unnecessary fear or hinder necessary research.


Media has a vital role in educating the public about various social issues. Movies and television shows like Contagion can be used to reach audiences about the concept of R0, which is an essential measure of a virus’s contagiousness. The movie Contagion accurately portrayed the idea of R-naught by showing its origin from animals to people. The R0 of the fictional MEV-1 virus was 4, while the R0 of the coronavirus is 2.2, according to a recent study by the NIH9. This difference can also be seen in the speed of transmission. The film implies that the virus can be spread quickly after infection, which is not necessarily true. For example, it would take at least a few days for the infected person to begin shedding the virus from the respiratory tract or saliva. The mortality rate of MEV-1 was around 25-30%, much higher than the 1.8-3.4% mortality rate of Covid-19. These differences make sense, as the incubation period of the movie virus is much faster.

Contagion successfully taught the audience about R0 and other aspects of viral transmission. However, the movie also shows how media can be used to reach audiences on crucial social issues9. It is an effective way of conveying a message compared to traditional messaging, such as press releases or speeches by the CDC or President. Movies and TV shows can use powerful visuals and storytelling to engage and educate viewers, which can be more effective than simply providing facts and figures. Furthermore, these films can often reach a wider audience than traditional methods.


In conclusion, the media has significantly influenced medicine and science in the modern world, both positively and negatively. It can be used to spread accurate information and educate the public on medical topics. Still, it can also distribute inaccurate details and influence the public perception of treatments and cures. The media has directly influenced the decisions of influential figures, the public’s understanding of medical topics, and the scientific research conducted. Therefore, it is crucial for the media to be used responsibly and for accurate information to be shared to ensure that the public is not misled. Governments and healthcare systems must also be prepared for pandemics and other medical crises to ensure the public can receive accurate and up-to-date information. Ultimately, the media can be a powerful tool in the fight against disease and illness, but it is essential to ensure that it is used responsibly.


  1. Song, Z., & Fergnani, A. (2022). How Pandemic Films Help Us Understand Outbreaks: Implications for Futures and Foresight. World Futures Review, 14(1), 9-28.
  2. (2023, January 31). Healthcare workers. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  3. Anti-SARS-CoV-2 monoclonal antibodies. (2022). COVID-19 Treatment Guidelines.
  4. Mariano, W. (2010). PolitiFact – Hit zombie series shows CDC blowing up after generators fail. @politifact.
  5. The Walking Dead, Season 1, Episode 6 (TS-19). (2010). AMC.
  6. Niburski, K., & Niburski, O. (2020). Impact of Trump’s promotion of unproven COVID-19 treatments and subsequent internet trends: an observational study. Journal of medical Internet research, 22(11), e20044.
  7. (2020, May 10). Doctor fact-checks PLANDEMIC conspiracy. YouTube.
  8. Fauci, A. (2020). Dr Anthony Fauci: Divisiveness has failed America “in every way”. YouTube.
  9. Going Viral: The Impact of Contagion on Public Understanding of R0. (2020, October 1). Retrieved January 18, 2021, from


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