Flu Season So Bad Discovery Just Ordered New ‘Influenza’ Documentary (Exclusive)

OK, so three-part “Invisible Killers” doc has been in works for years — but still

Last Updated: February 21, 2018 @ 8:23 AM

Ready to be done with this particularly devastating flu season? Well, Discovery and Science Channels aren’t going to let you forget about it just yet.

Next month, the Discovery Communications-owned cable channels plan to air a three-part documentary series titled “Invisible Killers,” TheWrap has learned exclusively. The episodes will cover Influenza, Smallpox and Ebola. (Guess what each is titled?)

We’ve also got your first look at the “Influenza” one via the video above — don’t blame us if you get feverish just watching it.

Influenza, Smallpox, and Ebola are among the three most lethal viruses ever to have plagued mankind. Smallpox has killed more people than all the wars in human history, the flu spreads like wildfire across the globe every year, and Ebola terrifies the world each time it emerges.

“Invisible Killers” will take viewers around the world to understand how viruses have shaped our health and history, the biological and social impact they have on our global society, and the incredible work that is being done to combat them, per Discovery.

The series features interviews with officials from the CDC, World Health Organization, National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), and insights from experts at the United Nations along with homeland security officers and biosecurity experts.

Below are descriptions and tune-in times for each episode — all in Discovery’s own words. Oh, and did we mention they’re all in one night?

“Influenza” (premiering March 29 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Discovery Channel and Science Channel) delves into the astonishing and little-understood history and impact of this constantly evolving virus, which is often tragically underestimated as merely a cousin to the common cold. Each year, six months in advance of the anticipated flu season, world health officials gather to speculate what strain of virus will be most prevalent and determine which vaccine will be most successful in treating those affected. “We’ve got to be able to look in our crystal ball and say, ‘Okay, six months from now which ones of these thousands and thousands of strains are likely to be circulating then? What’s our best guess?’ explains Dr. David Morens, Senior Scientific Advisor, NIAID/NIH. “And then we have to make that vaccine.”

100 years later, the episode revisits the catastrophic 1918 flu pandemic, in which there were no vaccines available, and which killed an estimated 50 to 100 million people around the world, 700,000 in the U.S. alone. Fast forward to current times, where flu vaccines are available at low-cost to millions across the country, but are mistakenly believed by many to cause the illness – a belief that health officials urge is simply not the case.

Anthony Fauci, Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases states that, “The extraordinary potential that influenza has to devastate certain segments of the population. It can be explosive.”

“Smallpox” (premiering March 29 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Science Channel) tells the story of perhaps the greatest accomplishment of medical science, the complete eradication of the worst disease known to humankind, a scourge responsible for an estimated 500 million deaths in the 20th century alone. Journalist Michael Specter explains, “It’s probably killed more people than all the wars in all of human history combined.”

Now, with the disease eradicated for nearly 40 years, this once feared and deadly virus could return – this time as one of the most significant bioterror threats facing humankind.

“This is what a weapon of mass destruction in the 21st century looks like,” states COL. Randall Larsen, USAF (RET), and Director, Institute for Homeland Security states, “and if this were dry-powder variola virus, you carry half a pound in a briefcase and release it on the subway system and it will change the course of history.”

“Ebola” (premiering March 29 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Science Channel) examines one of the world’s deadliest viruses – spread by physical contact with infected body fluids – as it turns human compassion in to human vulnerability attacking the individuals and health professionals trying to care for the sick. The episode looks back at the perfect storm of the 2014 West African outbreak – where lack of public health infrastructure, cultural practices, and a slow global response produced the deadliest outbreak on record.

Seema Yasmin, CDC epidemiologist states, “The outbreak in West Africa showed us that an outbreak anywhere is a threat everywhere so you have to be ready at all times.” The hour also reveals the dramatic race to develop a vaccine and test it before the outbreak subsided and the breakthrough success that they had.