Pandemic: the fortune-telling documentary

Lindsay Kuiper — Staff Writer

Netflix subscribers have set their sights on Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak due to the current coronavirus crisis. It only started gaining popularity in March despite its release on January 22, 2020.


The series focuses on doctors and healthcare workers around the globe who dedicate their lives to the eradication of pandemic threats. Filmed in 2019, many of the interviewees describe how an international outbreak would uncover the vulnerabilities in virtually all health services.

While the documentary mainly focuses on the likelihood of a variation of the influenza virus becoming a major issue, it features many hauntingly accurate predictions of events that have occurred during the coronavirus outbreak. In the first episode, Dr. Dennis Carroll states, “When we talk about another flu pandemic happening, it’s not a matter of if, but when.” It just so happens that the “when” Carroll was describing happened sooner rather than later.

When watching the series, I found myself double-checking the release date more than once because I couldn’t believe its impeccable timing, and Executive Producer Jeremiah Crowell would agree. He said the show felt like a “horrible coincidence.” The first three episodes were filmed before the first coronavirus case of 2019 was discovered and was released just weeks before the United States went into lockdown.

The show is a sobering lesson on the selfless heroism of those who work in the field of health. Its message could not be more relevant to current events. However, without the coronavirus crisis, the chances of this show gaining popularity would have been slim. Without looking at it through the lens of our current pandemic, the show would simply be another sensationalist series about the dangers of the future.

Even though its mainly highlighted experts working towards prevention of widespread illnesses, some parts of the show retrospectively discussed historical outbreaks such as Ebola or the flu pandemic of 1918. According to the show, over 50 million people died from the flu, which is more than those that died in World War I and II combined. However, Crowell explained that the coronavirus is not projected to be nearly as deadly as the flu of 100 years ago.

The show had an impressive number of health-related subjects such as a hospital in India, anti-vaccine mothers, and emergency management of biometric companies. There was no shortage of information – with six episodes clocking in at around 50 minutes each, the show is not for those with short attention spans.

With ratings of 100% on Rotten Tomatoes and 6.3/10 on IMDb, it is evident that many viewers disagree on the quality of the show. I personally enjoyed it because the interviewed experts were professional, yet relatable. The pacing of the show was well-timed and kept my attention, switching from scenes in the United States to stories playing out in Asia. It expanded my knowledge on what it takes to live in the world of healthcare and my empathy for these workers increased greatly.

Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is currently only available on Netflix.

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