Killer Outbreaks

TV review by
Matt Springer, Common Sense Media
Killer Outbreaks TV Poster Image
Anxiety-inducing true tales of rare infections and diseases.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.

Positive Messages

As each episode covers a specific disease outbreak and how the outbreak was then stopped by medical knowledge and fast thinking, it provides a strong message on the value of hard work and education as a force for good. There's also a bit of fear-mongering, as these rare diseases are presented as a possible threat.

Positive Role Models & Representations

The scientists interviewed for the series are frequently positioned as positive role models and heroes who work against odds to help save lives.


While no violence is depicted, there are occasional graphic reenactments of medical procedures and detailed descriptions of physical ailments related to the diseases covered. Also, the threat of these diseases is played up.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this documentary series focuses closely on deadly diseases and does not shy away from the occasional explicit description or reenactment of these diseases' physical effects. There is a definite informational and educational component, but younger children will likely react with confusion and perhaps horror at the impact these diseases have on people. Older kids and teens may find themselves drawn into the amazing real-life stories of these outbreaks and cures.

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What's the story?

A six-part documentary series, KILLER OUTBREAKS takes a close look at the stories surrounding some of the modern era's most significant infestations of deadly, unexpected diseases. The show focuses not just on the science behind these outbreaks, but on the people who are impacted -- the victims, their families, and the doctors and scientists who make it their job to heal the ill and insure that these diseases do not become widespread epidemics.

Is it any good?

The advent of a hundred different cable channels means there are countless hours to fill with programming. This has been good news for those who enjoy a good real-life documentary story; there's no shortage of amazing people undergoing remarkable experiences.

Killer Outbreaks provides a sensationalized look at the modern outbreaks of a series of recognizable diseases, from anthrax to E. coli. The narration and reenactments frequently lay on the melodrama way too thick, especially when the fundamental horrors of the diseases themselves need no elaboration. But the show does feature ample interviews with victims and their families and well as the doctors and scientists who battled these outbreaks, and when the focus is squarely on these real stories, it's pretty gripping drama.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what kind of shows are on TV. Why was this show created? What purpose does it serve? Is there any subject that you'd like to see on TV but don't?

  • What do you think it takes to become a scientist who can help cure these diseases? Do you think that's something you'd like to do someday? Why or why not?

  • How threatening are these diseases to most people? Does the show exaggerate the threat? If so, how does it do that? What are realistic ways to keep yourself healthy and protected?

TV details

  • Premiere date: April 15, 2011
  • Network: Animal Planet
  • Genre: Educational
  • TV rating: TV-PG
  • Last updated: September 20, 2019

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