Experts: "Fatal Contact" Exaggerates Worst Bird Flu Scenario

There are many scenarios from a possible outbreak of bird flu -- vaccine shortages, a run on stores, and crowded hospitals. In the movie Tuesday night on ABC, "Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America," viewers saw Hollywood's take on a disaster.

The makers of "Fatal Contact" admitted in a disclaimer tonight it is fiction -- a fictional examination of the question, "what if?"

Fatal Contact's bird flu spreads like wildfire.

"It's going to behave like typical influenza. The incubation period will be a matter of days, not a matter of hours,"  says KLTV Med Team Doctor Ed Dominguez, an infectious disease specialist.

He says even a mutated form of bird flu, is still just flu, and for just about everyone, a cough won't turn fatal in just a few hours.

"People will not get it as rapidly as the fictionalized versions might depict, but there's no doubt we're going to have to be very cognizant of it," he says.

"I really don't think it'll be that bad," says Debbie Stauffer, who, along with Helene Hakim instruct students at UT Tyler's School of Nursing. They say recent depictions, and then this one, can put more fear in the hearts of Americans.

"I just don't see it to that point yet," Stauffer says.

Hakim notes,  "We have systems and programs in place to keep [a flu pandemic] from getting that extreme."

No one can discount the possibility of a pandemic, but the rush through supermarkets? Chaos, even riots at hospitals?

"Hollywood likes to create these worst-case scenarios because it suits their particular storytelling purposes," Dominguez believes.

He says since people won't be dying in hours of getting sick, treatment will be at the very least, more orderly -- not an out-of-control disaster like was seen Tuesday.

"We'll know when people have it, because we're looking for it," he says.

Dominguez says bird flu, even if it mutates into the most contagious form, will be transmitted mainly by touching an infected person, or contacting a contaminated object. Airborne spread will only be possible in close contact. And the poultry industry continues to remind folks it can't be caught from eating chicken or other birds.

Reported by Morgan Palmer.