Zombies and You, with Biology
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Zombies and You, with Biology

The implications of a zombie outbreak are a frequent trend right now in current media. The possibility and likelihood of one however is very low, due to the kind of virus involved. The type of zombie outbreak observed include those from the AMC series, The Walking Dead, and a similar zombie-esque outbreak in the movie I Am Legend.

Zombie movies have become the latest trend on TV, with series, movies, and even a new line of literary novels, but exactly how accurate are these portrayals?  The most common form of zombie-ism, stems from the introduction of a new drug or disease, that results in a mass domino effect in a worldwide pandemic.  For our sake, let’s focus on the viral side.

The virus can be of two types, one similar to the movie I am Legend (Type 1), or one similar to The Walking Dead (Type 2).  Type one would be similar to the effect of rabies on dogs.  Transferal would be through bite or broken skin, where the virus will ultimately reach the brain and cause neuronal damage.  Inflammation and irritation would then result in increased adrenaline levels and more aggressive, animalistic tendencies.  Type 2 is more of a mythological virus that is not very likely to happen.  In this case, the victim, whether their death is natural or pandemic-induced, will become a zombie.  This occurs after they have deceased, when only some parts of the brain are reanimated after death.  This zombie is fueled off of basic human necessities of mindless eating and consumption.  This is highly unlikely to be probable, due to the characteristic of reanimation of a body after death has occurred.  Even then, bodily functions (walking, standing, eating) would not be supportive, due to the fact that the body has already begun the deteriorating process. 

Learning about the types of zombies, we can narrow which one is actually possible.  Type 1 is far more probable, due to what we know about how viruses affect us.  Type 2 is an improbable virus to observe, mainly due to the fact that the zombie-ism happens after death.  From this, we can focus our observations solely on that of type 1.  What makes viruses so deadly is based on their speed of replication, growth, and evolution.  Genetic drift causes sequence mutations, which can lead to rapid evolutionary advantages.  These changes include gaining antiviral resistance by making the virus more robust and resilient.  Due to a virus’s fast paced lifestyle and speed of replication, recombination may also occur, causing for a antigenetic shift to happen. This furthers the evolution of the virus, allowing it to adapt and develop exceedingly well. 

Although zombie type 1 is the more likely of the two, it doesn’t mean that it is in anyway probable, as portrayed in popular media.  For a virus to affect the human body in such a manner, neurologically, and at an accelerated rate is highly advanced.  Along with that, the spread of the disease in such an extensive manner in such a short period of time is very unlikely.  All-in-all, we are better off preparing for the common cold rather than stocking up for a zombie attack. 

 Image from: http://photo-dictionary.com/phrase/671/virus.html#b by Shutterstock

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