ZAM: The Zombie Apocalypse – could it really happen?
The short answer is maybe. Scary, right?
Science and technology have come a long way in the last hundred years. It wasn’t long ago we nerds were ogling Star Trek’s gadgets in the 1960s and now some of them have become reality. Science has improved in leaps and bounds with cloning and stem cell research bringing new possibilities with them. Who knows what the future could bring?
So what could potentially change the average human into the walking dead?
Rabies + Influenza = “Rage Virus”?
Rabies can be transmitted by a bite (human or animal) and usually takes a number of weeks before zombie-like symptoms appear such as aggressive behaviour including biting, excessive production of saliva (foaming at the mouth), high temperature and hallucinations and delusions.
There is currently no known cure.
So what if this virus mutated either naturally or unnaturally to combine with the influenza’s ability to contaminate and spread via the air we breathe?
Instead of just biting someone the infected would only have to sneeze and we’re all doomed.
Mad Cow Disease
The latter stages of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD), also known as Mad Cow Disease, mean the sufferer will experience confusion and loss of balance and co-ordination. They may also lose the ability to speak or care for themselves and can develop muscle spasms making their movements jerky.
And all you have to do in order contract this disease is eat an infected cow, be bitten by or come into contact with the blood of an infected person or animal.
Again, there is no cure and it’s unlikely there will ever be one. Of course, we’d need at least a few hundred herds of infected cows to make it into the human food chain in order for a sufficient number of zombies to become a problem but perhaps the vegetarians have it right. I certainly don’t feel like eating beef after learning this.
A rat infected by Toxoplasma gondiiwill have its fear response of cat urine, and only cat urine, altered to one of attraction, for the express reason to have the rat eaten because only inside a cat’s intestines can the parasite then sexually reproduce. It’s that specific.
Ever heard of this brainwashing parasite? I hadn’t. What’s worse is that it’s common amongst humans. But calm down, most people don’t suffer any symptoms and no ill effects as a result, although a few do complain of flu-like ailments. Only those with immune deficiencies have anything to fear: confusion, poor co-ordination, seizures, coughing up blood, difficulty breathing, a high temperature and multiple lesions on the brain.
Sound familiar? If the parasite ever becomes more aggressive in humans we’d be screwed.
Firstly, all of the above could be bio-engineered to become virulent zombie-making viruses. Or entirely new ones could be created. Research is being carried out everywhere. Militaries, for instance, are always looking for ways to make their armies better and their enemies deader. They dedicate huge amounts of money to research in order to achieve their objectives in a more efficient manner. How great would it be to have a DNA-specific disease that would only target a pre-specified individual? Bio-warfare is big business.
Viruses are not the only path to an apocalypse.
Frankenstein is a reality. We can re-attach severed limbs and perform organ transplants. We can restart a heart and encourage someone to breathe again. Reanimation is also possible:
The Safar Center team took the dogs, swiftly flushed their bodies of blood and replaced it with a relatively cool saline solution (approximately 45 to 50 degrees) laced with oxygen and glucose. The dogs quickly went into cardiac arrest, and with no demonstrable heartbeat or brain activity, clinically died.
There the dogs remained in what Patrick Kochanek, the director of the Safar Center, and his colleagues prefer to call a state of suspended animation. After three full hours, the team reversed their steps, withdrawing the saline solution, reintroducing the blood and thereby warming the dogs back to life. In a flourish worthy of Mary Shelley, they jump-started their patients’ hearts with a gentle electric shock. While a small minority of the dogs suffered permanent damage, most did not, awakening in full command of their faculties.
That kind of research could save victims of gunshots and stab wounds, giving surgeons enough time to repair the damage before the patient dies of blood loss.
This tells us that we can make the dead walk. “Do Not Resusitate” takes on a new meaning but I can imagine the lawyers salivating over the prospect of adding “Do Not Reanimate” clauses into living wills.
Stem Cell Research and Nanotechnology
Stem cells have the ability to be engineered to become any type of cell in the human body. Similarly, nanobots, which are microscopic machines, in theory, could be programmed to perform almost any task. The number of applications are thought to be close to limitless. Research into these is being carried out as we speak. But just think how easy it could be to create and programme human drones with this technology. The nanobots in particular are worrying, if you’ve ever seen Stargate SG-1 you’ll understand why. If you were to order them to replicate, spread and infect and take control of human hosts -well, that’s your apocalypse right there.
Scientists are always messing around with something these days. It’s in their nature. Research is going on into anything and everything. Not all discoveries are purposely made, some are accidents. And not all discoveries are for the greater good. Every now and then we hear about scientists working with something deadly or morally ambiguous and we pray that no one makes an oopsy thereby unleashing ravenous zombie hoardes on the world.
Like boy scouts we must be prepared for the worst so stick with us and over the next few days we’ll teach you how to survive such a catastrophe.
For once, perhaps we should listen to George W. Bush. (I NEVER thought I’d say that!)
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