As far as the end of the world is concerned, those interested in survival don’t generally examine the monsters in zombie films as a potential real threat. Despite this, researchers at the Zombie Research Society have begun offering scientific explanations alongside their tongue in cheek attitude toward the creatures and suggest the zombie apocalypse is not a matter of “if,” but “when.” While we may not consider zombies a real world menace, some studies of diseases such as rabies have come up with some startling possibilities.
Let’s take the purely fictional realm of zombie menaces and apply them to a very real disease that afflicts pets and wildlife around the globe – rabies. When we compare rabies (also known as Lyssavirus Rhabdoviridae Monogavirales) to the fantastic vision of film pioneered by George Romero, the parallels are uncanny. It’s a virus that is transmitted via a bite. It creates strong aggressive tendencies and sluggish movement. It inevitably kills those infected with it. In no uncertain terms, aside from the reanimation of the dead this virus could easily be compared to a sort of zombie virus. In essence, endotherms all over the world are already halfway to a zombie apocalypse. And the uncanny resemblance doesn’t end there.
And while the research society doesn’t necessarily advocate preparation of homes in 2012 prior to a massive zombie doomsday scenario, they have been working with biologists all over the world in an attempt to discover the mechanics behind the fictional monsters and determine just how possible such a creature may be in the real world. Citing questions as simple as, “would zombies need to blink,” and “could a reanimated creature claw its way through the Earth after burial,” the ZRS takes nothing for granted – no matter how much of a convention it may become.
But while studying zombies, the grad students, filmmakers, armchair biologists, and speculative pathologists are engaging in an activity that has become more important lately than ever before – the examination of what a disease is and what its limits may be. As they piece together zombies from the pages of fiction and clips of film reel and prepare for the -some would say- inevitable transfer into the real world, it becomes clear that the grey matter involved is full of questions about our world, our society, and ourselves. Why are people interested in zombies? What about them piques the imaginations of millions as they engage in massive zombie walks all over the country? What would happen if we did one day find ourselves face to face with a crisis of the reanimated dead?
Zombie fodder they are not, as they take apart the mechanics behind zombies and explain how one would most likely work given the vast wealth of knowledge we have about diseases. And with the fusion of diseases such as strains of the flu observed in H5N1, how long until other diseases – such as rabies are changed in a way that would have us all wishing we’d paid more attention during Romero’s films?