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Vol. 24 - Num. 94

Special Articles

Epidemics and pandemics: a journey from Hippocrates to Hollywood

Javier González de Diosa, José M.ª Eiros Bouzab

aServicio de Pediatría. Hospital General Universitario de Alicante. Departamento de Pediatría. Universidad Miguel Hernández. ISABIAL-Instituto de Investigación Sanitaria y Biomédica. Alicante. España.
bServicio de Microbiología. Hospital Universitario Río Hortega y Facultad de Medicina. Universidad de Valladolid. Valladolid. España.

Correspondence: J González. E-mail:

Reference of this article: González de Dios J, Eiros Bouza JM. Epidemics and pandemics: a journey from Hippocrates to Hollywood. Rev Pediatr Aten Primaria. Rev Pediatr Aten Primaria. 2022;24:e243-e260.

Published in Internet: 11-05-2022 - Visits: 1031


The history of medicine and the events surrounding epidemics and pandemics should allow us to learn from previous experiences in such difficult times. The 10 largest pandemics in history prior to the coronavirus 2019 pandemic have left us a series of lessons with four main characters: earliest of all, Yersinia pestis, and then three viruses: smallpox, influenza and coronavirus.

Filmmaking allow us to travel from reality to fiction, which we confirmed by reviewing 27 films about epidemics and pandemics throughout the history of the seventh art. Of these, six plot films can be "prescribed": Arrowsmith (John Ford, 1931), Philadelphia (Jonathan Demme, 1993), Outbreak (Wolfgang Petersen, 1995), 22 ángeles (Miguel Bardem, 2016), 93 days (Steve Gukas, 2016) and, especially, Contagion (Steven Soderbergh, 2011).

In this journey from Hippocrates to Hollywood (from science to art) in the context of epidemics and pandemics, there are lessons to be gained: 1) History evinces two facts from previous epidemics and pandemics: that they are severe and that they recur over time; 2) Film shows us two future assumptions about epidemics and pandemics: an apocalyptic vision and a hardly positive perspective as reflected on the big screen. And this is how film acts as a vaccine, by exposing us in small and repeated doses to the emotions and reflections that epidemics and pandemics elicit in us, in pursuit of knowledge, prudence and resilience against these diseases.


Cinema Education Epidemics History Paediatrics Pandemics



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