CDC: "Contagion"-like outbreak "quite plausible"

"Contagion" was the No. 1 film at the box office this weekend. It's scaring up moviegoers with the terrifying story of a virus that goes global- - and the race to stop it. But how accurate is it?

"Contagion" contagious: wins box office race

Dr. Thomas Frieden, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on "The Early Show" Monday the scenario portrayed in the film is "quite plausible."

The CDC worked closely with the filmmakers to create a highly accurate portrayal of a growing pandemic.

"We are all connected by the food we eat and the water we drink and the air we breathe," Frieden said. "The CDC and our partners identifies one new pathogen each year, we investigate one new one each day. Something like this can happen. And even in our own lifetime, if you think about HIV, more than 25 million people have been killed by HIV around the world."

Other illnesses also spread very quickly, Frieden noted.

He explained, "The measles virus, without vaccinations, each person with measles infects 15 people. One person with measles can affect someone a hundred feet away, and it's possible even that someone who had measles leaves a place and, four hours later, someone gets in and gets infected. So, sure, this is possible, but what is important is that we can do a lot to prevent it, and to reduce the impact, as well."

Frieden, himself, has seen the movie twice. When asked by "Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill if the film teaches people or simply scares them, he replied, "It's important that people understand there are people at the local, state, federal, and global levels who are working to track what is happening so that we can prevent this from happening."

He continued, "There are basically a few things we do in public health. We detect signals so that we can identify soon when a new pathogen is emerging. We figure out the laboratory aspects of it, what is it, how does it spread. We figure out how it acts in people, so what's called the epidemiology of it and figure out how to control it. We can't say we can control everything, but we can say that we can always be better prepared today than yesterday and be better prepared tomorrow than we were today."

However, Frieden notes, the U.S. has additional challenges today due to job losses.

"Over the past two years, about 45,000 jobs have been lost from local public health agencies," he said. "Those were many of the people who would detect and respond to an outbreak, such as this one."