Zombie VirusZombie Science - 07.29.2012
Is there a zombie virus, and should we be scared?
LQP-79 was supposedly a new contagion that was turning peaceful people into zombie-like cannibals
The truth is that LQP-79 was an Internet hoax. It spread with lightning speed due to the sensational nature of the news, and the human desire to have easy explanations. The coroner’s office has no explanation for the attack in Miami.
Viruses and Zombies
Movies are full of infectious agents creating undead hordes. The Resident Evil franchise is a notable example – and I should point out that I’ve had a crush on Milla Jovovich since The Fifth Element.
Could something like that really happen?
We’ll there are examples of biological organisms manipulating host behavior. There are fungi and even wasps that manipulate the behavior of insect hosts to better their chances of survival. Rabies is an example of a virus which makes infected animals more aggressive, increasing the chance of the disease spreading.
Baculoviruses infect caterpillars. The caterpillars change their behavior and climb to the top of their tree. Once there, the virus releases an enzyme which dissolves the caterpillar, spreading the virus over the leaves below. Thus, the chance of infecting other caterpillars is increased.
Fortunately, baculoviruses are completely adapted to invertebrates, so the chance of mammals being affected is very rare. In fact, they are used in pest control for farms.
Reanimating The Dead
No known virus, or other infectious agent can reanimate the dead. In fact the CDC responded to the zombie virus panic by releasing a statement that no such thing existed. This is ironic, since the CDC itself released posters and training material on how to deal with a zombie pandemic.
The issue is that zombies might not strictly be reanimated dead. A more modern, and less superstitious definition is a mindlessly aggressive human driven by biological infection.
We here at ZPN believe that the biological driver for mindlessly aggressive human behavior could be: chemical/pharmacological, viral, bacterial, technological, fungal, or prion based. This creates a lot of potential vectors for the ZPOC.
If an infectious agent is the driver, then the problem will be human to human spread (or animal to human spread). Movies have zombies creating other zombies through bites. This is one way viruses spread, but remember some are airborne or spread through indirect contact (touching something an infected person touched).
One thing is for sure, when the ZPOC comes, hygiene is going to be important.