Time to Worry: CDC Issues Zombie Pandemic Preparedness Guide

Luck and Death at the Edge of the World

I don’t have long to write this. I’ve barricaded the doors, but I can hear them pounding on it with something heavy. I think they may have made a battering ram from the chassis of the burned-out Triumph in front of the house.

Before they break in, though, I have to post one last blog entry to note the irony of the Centers for Disease Control taking the zombie threat seriously with its Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Guide (download the pdf), just months before the dreaded event was actually upon us.

I hope to god that others out there discovered this essential resource earlier than I did, perhaps even in time to save their lives now that hell has come to Earth.

Cover of the CDC comic book Zombie Pandemic

Cover of the CDC comic book Zombie Pandemic

I may be odd in this respect, but I have always had an amateur interest in epidemiology and have been going to the CDC for reading material for over a decade now.

My curiosity was particularly piqued in the 1990s, when I was struck by the parallel between the emerging resistance of some infections to antibiotics and the emerging resistance of some insects that act as disease vectors to commonly used pesticides.

Antibiotic resistance has been caused in large part by misuse of antibiotics. Drenching microbes in antibiotics by using them in inappropriate cases (often as a placebo) increases the selection pressures on those microbes so that resistant strains emerge. And when patients stop using antibiotics once they get some relief — but before the infection is competely eradicated — they leave the hardiest variants of the infectious agent with a breathing space in which to breed.

Pesticide resistance has been caused by a similar increase in selection pressures amongst insects due to the increasing, and often indiscriminate, use of pesticides. The susceptible strains of insects die off, leaving the field to their resistant cousins.

And these two phenomena are not only parallel, but they aggregate, as drug-resistant diseases hitch rides on pesticide-resistant insects that transmit them to our farm animals, our pets, and us.

Fool that I was I thought that this might be our undoing, never suspecting that the zombies would eat our brains before Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy could turn our grey matter into something like a neuronal swiss cheese. My fascination with these twinned phenomena even made its way into my novel, Luck and Death at the Edge of the World, which would have been published later this year if the apocalypse hadn’t come first.

As a result of my interest in the topic, I have made a point over the years of reading the CDC’s Journal of Emerging Infectious Diseases, which wraps its sometimes terrifying contents in incongruously gorgeous covers, like this one from Maxfield Parrish.

Maxfield Parrish cover for EID Volume 17, Number 8 (August 2011)

Maxfield Parrish cover for EID Volume 17, Number 8 (August 2011)

I also regularly scan the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, with its updates on what ails us and kills us, and going beyond the CDC I also subscribe to Pro-Med Mail, with multiple daily updates from the International Society for Infectious Diseases.

But I never thought the CDC would give any attention to zombies, nor did I suspect that they needed to — like everyone else I was oblivious to the threat until it was too late.

For obvious reasons they camouflaged their real campaign behind a pretense: the notion that a cool comic book about zombies would attract attention to the need for emergency preparedness for more prosaic threats, like say ebola.

If this had, in fact, been nothing but a publicity campaign to draw the public’s attention to the need for greater attention to threats from diseases and natural distasters it would have been a hell of a smart move, but as a way of accomplishing that goal while also delivering much-needed information about the zombie threat is sheer genius.

Too bad it came as late as it did. The wood of the door is starting to splinter and from outside I can hear the slavering of the undead, ready to slake their unholy appetites. I had better go — time to make a last stand.

If you're    ready for a zombie apocalypse, then you're ready for any emergency.    emergency.cdc.gov
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