The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention want us to be prepared for the zombie apocalypse, according to a recent post on CDC's public health blog.
But an agency tweet touting that post Wednesday night sent so many people rushing to the blog, presumably wide-eyed and arms outstretched, that it crashed the site for several hours, a CDC communications official told Nextgov.
The post had logged about 30,000 hits by the time the blog went down at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday. That's roughly three times as many hits as any previous post, CDC Associate Director for Communications Dave Daigle said. Posts on the blog typically get between 1,000 and 3,000 hits, he said.
The blog was up and running as of noon on Thursday but loading very slowly. The site was using various work-arounds to manage the traffic, which has now risen to around 60,000 hits, Daigle said.
The website Geek.com speculated that the intense traffic must have been connected to paranoia surrounding the fringe Family Radio movement that claims the Christian Judgment Day will come on Saturday.
But most readers commenting on the CDC blog seemed to be in on the joke.
"[At] long last, the CDC gets serious about the impending zombie apocalypse," one wrote. "Finally, government spending I can support!" another quipped.
The post itself is a tongue-in-cheek how-to on zombie apocalypse preparations. The author Dr. Ali Khan frequently points out that most of his recommendations, such as creating an emergency kit with food, water and batteries and deciding on a family meeting place, also would work in the event of a hurricane, flood or other natural disaster.
"If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak," he said, including working with state and local officials on a response plan and doing field work and lab testing to determine the origin of the zombie infestation.
The blog, unfortunately, is silent on what to do if those early strategies are unsucessful.
The CDC's communications team was frustrated by the server crash, Daigle said, but excited to have whipped up so much public interest in a post that was, ultimately, about preparing the public for emergencies.
Once the dust has settled, his group hopes to do a follow-up evaluation to see how many people actually created emergency kits or worked out a family emergency plan after reading the post.
"Every year we do hurricane preparedness messaging and we were kicking around ideas," Daigle said. "Zombies came up and that seemed to spark some interest. We've got a boss with a good sense of humor. A lot of guys would've thrown us out of the office at that point."