The zombie film and TV series looks set to continue to be a popular trend into 2016 and there have always been a multitude of zombie novels to enjoy. Talking about zombies is commonplace and there are loads of blogs, websites and more that are dedicated to one aspect or another of the trend. But are the authorities quietly preparing for a real zombie outbreak with a series of so-called “light-hearted and fun’ articles in serious journals and publications?
Serious scientific study
The most recent study of the threat of a zombification virus was published in the Christmas issue of the British Medical Journal. Written by antibiotics resistance researcher and epidemiologist Tara Smith, associate professor at Kent State University, the article looks at the threat of the zombie, how infections can spread and how they should be treated as well as funding for preventative research. The journal states that the piece is light-hearted and part of their annual ‘fun’ section but also that the article is peer-reviewed and written with the same scientific approach as their other articles.
Earlier in the year, we had the Zombie Preparedness Guidelines from the CDC, another supposedly fun document that detailed what to do in the event of a zombie apocalypse to survive and find your family and friends. The cartoon form guide makes for comic book reading yet the inspiration for it is the supposed similarity in how you would deal with a zombie outbreak compared to a number of other major incidents and outbreaks. So the zombie bit is just fun – honestly!
Going back a little further, you can even find a document entitle ‘The nurses role in the prevention of the Solanum infection; dealing with a zombie epidemic’. This one is written for the nurses and deals with the outbreak of the virus featured in the book and film World War Z. It goes on to detail how nurses need to learn to recognise the infection and to care for sufferers as well as victims of a zombie attack.
Causes of the zombie outbreak
Before the recent trend in zombie films and TV shows, if you asked people what caused someone to become a zombie, they would most likely attribute blame to another person. We’ve all seen the old films with the evil witch doctor style character raising the dead from their graves and having them shambling around the house, doing odd jobs. But the modern zombie is an entirely more worrying concept because they come from a disease and this idea isn’t outside the realms of scientific possibility.
Top of the list for possible zombie creation are the brain parasites. These turn the human brain into a puddle of mush and take away the personality of the individual, leaving behind a wrecked, hungry zombie eager to infect others and feast on flesh. In reality, there is toxoplasmosis gondii, a nasty little bugger that infects rats. But it only breeds in the guts of cats so it knows it needs to insert rat into cat to spread. So it takes over the rat’s mind and makes it head to the cat to get eaten and therefore pass on the parasite. While this is only in rats, the parasite can pass to humans in some rare cases and tests show that it would increase the chance of a personality change and actions we would otherwise described as crazy.
Another popular idea for the causing of zombies is human created but through nature. Neurotoxins are poisons that slow down body function to the point of appearing to be dead with the Japanese blowfish poison being one of the most well-known. Victims can be brought round using certain chemicals but they remain in a trance-like state with no memory and the ability to perform only simple actions (like walking around with arms outstretched?).
Brain disorders are something we are all familiar with and a mutated version of something like Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (also known as Mad Cow disease) has such a doomsday potential. The symptoms of the disease include hallucinations, a lack of coordination, twitching muscles, seizures as well as changes in gait and finally delirium or dementia type symptoms. Even without a condition such as this, the very chemistry of our brains is in a fine balance that can go wrong â€“ one example is when the brain has too much serotonin. Tests have shown rats become mindless killing machines when they have too much of this chemical in their brain.
Other technology that man develops has the potential to create a zombie virus or conditions that mimic the zombie phenomena. From replacing brains in brain-dead patients to the invention of nanotechnology that could take over the brain and body, mankind isn’t short of ideas that could go very wrong and create a legion of zombies.
Perhaps the authorities publish their guides and studies into zombies in a light-hearted and tongue in cheek manner but you have to wonder if there is more to it. These scientifically based ideas are just a few of the most popular ones being discussed on the internet and while the chances of any of these happening is slim, there is still a chance. Or there is the unknown factor, something we haven’t dreamed about or a new mutation that we never expected. In other words, if it could happen, it might happen and then the authorities can say that they were prepared because of the literature they had written on the subject.