Can a zombie apocalypse really occur? Tara Smith, an associate professor from Ohio’s Kent State University is issuing an international call to action to fund and promote studies on how to prevent a possible zombie outbreak.
“Zombie expert Matt Mogk defines a zombie with three criteria:
- it is a reanimated human corpse;
- it is relentlessly aggressive, and
- it is biologically infected and infectious.
But Mogk notes that this definition has been altered by the recognition of “rage” zombies, which are infected but still alive,” Smith wrote on a recently published study in the respected British Medical Journal BMJ.
A new article entitled “Zombie infections: epidemiology, treatment and prevention” details everything from symptoms of infection — “people may clinically die and reanimate” — to how “zombiism” is transmitted — “via bite”. It urges more funding for research into zombie epidemics
“to tackle the looming threat of apocalyptic disease”.
The study, by Tara Smith of Kent State University in the US, even comes with meticulous footnotes citing sources such as zombie movies “28 Days Later” and “Night of the Living Dead“.
A spokesman for the BMJ, one of the most respected forums for research in the medical world, explained that the article was part of a light-hearted tradition of running a special Christmas issue.
“All Christmas articles go thorough our usual peer-review processes,” the spokesman added. “The subject matter is quirky and fun, but they use proper research methods and have to stand up scientifically.”
The Science of Zombies
Smith cited several scientific studies, news reports and fictional works to back up her research. As listed on Discovery News, the author specified three possible pathogens that could cause an outbreak: the Black Plague bacteria Y. pestis, mad cow disease as well as the Cordyceps fungus.
Out of the three pathogens, it is the Cordyceps fungus which is the most common, with 400 known species. According to the publication, the parasitic fungus invades the body of its host and takes over, using the body as a means to make the fungus spores spread.
In a report by EurekAlert, Smith believes that the increase of similar zombie pathogens should be a sign that additional attention and funding should be provided into studying possible disease outbreaks.
Although the scope of the study appears to sound more like a scene from a movie or television series, researchers from Cornell University believe that the data can prove useful in the event that an outbreak occurs. The Discovery publication says that the researchers went as far as conducting a simulation to show how the zombies would move and spread throughout the United States.
For Smith, correlating the study to zombies is one way to grab attention.
“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,” Smith told The Washington Post reporters.
Smith states that the recent Ebola outbreak shows how incredibly unprepared governments are in handling an epidemic of such a grand scale. With the emergence of antibiotic-resistant bacteria strains, perhaps it is about time to consider seeing zombies in a whole new different light.