Broadcaster: BBC 1
Review by Will Channell
In this half-hour documentary, Medical doctor and researcher Chris Van Tulleken, investigates the epidemiology of the Ebola virus; with particular focus on the 2014 outbreak in West Africa, and the potential for the virus to get into the UK. This is a useful programme offering both public information on an important current affair and for use as an educational tool in the area of viral physiology and epidemiology.
The programme starts by giving background information on the outbreak, before quickly introducing ideas on how the British government are tackling it. Van Tulleken explores the secretive research facilities at Porton Down and the highly secure laboratories in which the Ebola virus is studied (http://bobnational.net/record/292484, 4 minute clip).
Using interviews combined with computer graphics, he guides the viewer through the physiology of the virus, explaining areas relevant to the virus’ pathogenicity. Following this the viewer is guided through the symptoms and treatment of Ebola using further interviews with people who have first-hand experience of the recent epidemic, including British survivor nurse Will Pooley and MSF doctor Javid Abdelmoneim.
Van Tulleken then draws the documentary to a close by detailing transmission of the virus. The emphasis is on reassuring the public of the improbability of infection in the UK. Several factors about the biology of Ebola make it relatively difficult to catch – it is not (currently) contagious by airborne transmission, you need to have contact with the bodily fluids of someone who has the disease.
Any undergraduate microbiologists studying either the Ebola virus or viral epidemiology in general would find this documentary interesting. Despite only being half an hour long the show offers detailed information that would be useful as either a learning or revision tool. In addition to this it walks through the career roles of various research or healthcare scientists.
People interested in this programme might also benefit from the more recent documentary Outbreak: The truth about Ebola.