by Greg Campbell | December 17, 2015 12:53 pm
Have you ever watched “The Walking Dead” and wondered if such a thing could ever happen? Most of us realize that zombies do not and cannot exist, but recent research may suggest that we have been too quick to dismiss zombies as the work of fiction and more importantly, the lesson that can be learned from the zombie tales.
From the Solanum virus in World War Z to Trixie in The Crazies, books, films and TV shows have spent decades highlighting the, albeit fictional, threat of a zombie apocalypse.
But such a threat may be more real than first thought.
A researcher from Ohio has published a study that looks at the rise of fictional ‘zombie’ infections in a tongue-in cheek way to draw attention to the real-word threat of how diseases spread.
She also uses it as a ‘wake-up’ call for the medical and community to fund research into how countries tackle outbreaks – using the recent Ebola crisis as an example.
In her study, ‘Zombie infections: epidemiology, treatment, and prevention’, Tara Smith, Associate Professor at Kent State University in Ohio studies the fictional spread of the Solanum virus, the Rage virus that featured in the 2002 film 28 Days Later and the Trixie virus in 1973 film, and 2010 remake, The Crazies.
Her research is published in the British Medical Journal.
Non-viral zombie causes include a form of the Black Plague bacterium, Yersinia pestis, the cordyceps fungus, and a mutated strain of the prion infection, commonly known as ‘mad cow’ disease.
She discovered that each of these viruses were typically spread by ‘bites.’
Symptoms of infection during a zombie outbreak tend to be fairly uniform, regardless of the nature of the pathogen, added Associate Professor Smith.
The incubation period is highly variable, with development of symptoms ranging from seconds to hours or days.
Other symptoms may include a shambling gait, tendency to moan, loss of dexterity and prior personality traits, and the eventual rotting of flesh, she adds.
In rare cases, she found that zombies may be highly intelligent and self-aware, and lacking in the typical bite-and-flesh-eating tendencies.
Due to the rapid onset of zombie outbreaks and their ‘society-destroying characteristics’, prevention and treatment is a largely unexplored area of investigation, noted Smith.
She also pointed out that ‘equilibrium with the zombie infection is rarely achieved’ and believes the documented rise of multiple zombie pathogens ‘should be a wake-up call to the international community that we need additional funding and cooperation to address these looming apocalyptic disease threats.’
She uses these conclusion to appeal to the international community to do more to prevent disease outbreaks in the real world.
‘Several models of zombie infections have shown that in the event of a large scale outbreak humans face extermination, she explained.
‘Chances of survival start out slightly higher in sparsely populated areas, but they eventually become overwhelmed.
‘The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and others have published details of the preparations that should be made in the case of a pending zombie outbreak.
‘Unfortunately most countries remain grossly unprepared for a potential disaster of this nature.
In an interview with The Washington Post, Associate Professor Smith admitted: ‘We give talks around the country about scientific issues – tied into zombies.
‘It’s a way to bring attention to these subjects that otherwise might not seem interesting. In my case, it’s infectious disease.
She specifically made reference to the way nations handled the widespread outbreak of Ebola and how it highlighted how ‘incredibly unprepared’ we are at handling epidemics of this kind.
Plus, with the rise of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, Associate Professor said the issue should be considered more of a priority.
No, the study does not assert that zombie outbreaks are imminent, but within the zombie tales is an inkling of truth: diseases can spread rapidly in our age of global commerce and the world may not be ready for an epidemic.
Where’s Rick Grimes when you need him, huh?
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