Emerging Infectious Diseases, Better Public Health Outcomes, and Zombies

Danomyte/Shutterstock.com

In conclusion, zombies are awesome, and can be used as a thought experiment to probe the ethical dimensions of public health responses to disease outbreaks.

Perhaps the public's obsession with zombies can be refracted from horror movies and towards health issues, suggests a new paper in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases

The hope is that zombies can do for public health awareness what they did for Jane Austen: tack on some zombies and suddenly boring things turn exciting.

Rabies awareness, in particular, could benefit from the shambling hordes -- apparently because of the similarities between the actual symptoms of rabies and the fictional symptoms of zombies. "Zombie popularity may be a perfect opportunity to increase awareness of rabies," the UC Irvine team lead by Brandon Brown wrote.

The most prominent resemblance between those afflicted with rabies and zombiism begins at the mouth; both ailments are primarily transmitted through biting. While the pathogenesis for zombification is less consistent, rabies spreads through infected saliva entering the body. In addition, victims indicate infected status with increased production of fluid from the mouth; in the case of rabies, increased salivation occurs to improve chances of transmission. Rabies control in practice may be similar to hypothetical control of zombie outbreaks. For example, in 2008, Indonesian officials in Bali killed roughly 50,000 dogs in 5 days after an outbreak of rabies. This sparked a great deal of controversy, leading to the primary alternative of mass vaccination. If a zombie apocalypse were to occur, surviving humans might not have the capacity for mass vaccination. The sole option may be to kill the undead for human survival; however, the ethics of destroying something that was once human might be called into question.

Read more at The Atlantic

(Image via Danomyte/Shutterstock.com)

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