Science on Screen: Fighting Ebola in Africa

There’s an ingenious moment in Wolfgang Petersen’s 1995 film Outbreak, a disease-themed thriller that follows the Ebola-like Motaba virus as it overtakes a small Northern California town, when an infected man goes to a movie theater to enjoy a flick and coughs obnoxiously around everyone. The action pauses to follow the deadly germs as they spread through the air, floating over the members of the audience and eventually into their open mouths. No moment better exemplifies how pop culture can terrifyingly teach us science lessons to keep handy while we wait for the deadly virus that is inevitably coming for us all.

In an effort to calm fears about the lurking Ebola invasion so many anticipate, the Boedecker Theater at the Dairy Center for the Arts will be screening Outbreak as part of its Science On Screen program — but with a little pre-show assist from Boulder’s Dr. Charles Steinberg. The good doctor knows a thing or two about rational thought in the face of viral fear, as he and his wife were among the first to properly treat HIV/AIDS patients in the early ’80s. Steinberg recently returned from Sierra Leone, where he helped in an Ebola treatment center at which death rates hovered around 60 percent. Steinberg will discuss Ebola and its potential as a worldwide threat, along with treatment and management and to what degree Outbreak got things right — and also very wrong.

“It’s not often we have an opportunity to hear from someone who has been on the front lines dealing with Ebola,” says Dairy executive director Bill Obermeier. “Hearing firsthand about Dr. Steinberg’s experiences and seeing images from his time in Sierra Leone is an exciting opportunity.”

Face your fears and learn the facts, or just show up in a sealed plastic suit. Your choice. Steinberg speaks and Outbreak screens tonight at 7 p.m. at the Dairy Center, 2590 Walnut Street in Boulder. Tickets are $6 to $11 at
Tue., Jan. 27, 7 p.m., 2015