January 18, 2000 at 05:00 AM EST

Runaway Virus

TV Show
Current Status
In Season

Amid one of the worst flu seasons in years, the Center for Disease Control believes it has found an ideal way to get the message out about prevention: a made-for-television movie on ABC. On Jan. 29 the alphabet network will air ”Runaway Virus,” a Jason Beghe (”GI Jane”) starrer that has doctors tracking an outbreak in Guatemala that’s similar to the Spanish Flu strain of 1918. That flu, for which there is still no vaccine, killed millions around the world — particularly among the ages of 20-40. <p''[Executive producer] Leonard Goldberg went to the CDC to double-check [the TV film's] accuracy,'' explains Maura Dunbar, vice president of miniseries and special projects for ABC. ''The CDC embraced it and said the movie can use their logos. They wanted to capitalize on it and get the message out about flu vaccines, how they are important and essential.'' CDC literature will also be sent to ABC stations, who may incorporate a flu shot message into their local newscasts.

Why did the CDC embrace ”Virus”? Dunbar says the agency believes it’s only a matter of time before a deadly flu strain — even a mutated form of the Spanish Flu — could wreak havoc in the states. The flu has been particularly harsh this year, with thousands of Americans complaining of bad coughs, headaches, fevers, and exhaustion. Even so, it’s not ABC’s goal to ”inspire fear or paranoia,” Dunbar says. ”This is a thriller.”

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