August 18, 2009
Led by Robert Smith?, of the University of Ottawa, the team modelled a variety of scenarios using techniques that would be familiar to those studying more plausible pandemics. (And yes, the question mark is part of his name.)
A basic model using three classes of person – zombies, susceptible to infection, and ‘removed’ – found coexistence with the undead was impossible and following a short outbreak, “zombies will likely kill everyone”.
The researchers went on to model for a cure and quarantine, as well as the potential for counterattacks to eradicate the zombie threat. Things still do not look good for humanity, they report in their paper When Zombies Attack!
“A zombie outbreak is likely to lead to the collapse of civilisation, unless it is dealt with quickly,” they write in the new book Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress.
“While aggressive quarantine may contain the epidemic, or a cure may lead to coexistence of humans and zombies, the most effective way to contain the rise of the undead is to hit hard and hit often. As seen in the movies, it is imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly, or else we are all in a great deal of trouble.”
This research paper is not a totally academic exercise; Smith et al note that their models may seem unlikely (as the dead can return to life), but they could have applications for those modelling allegiance to political parties or diseases that lie dormant for some time.
“If you look at it in a more realistic way, zombies are about the same as any other major infectious disease, they get out and we try to eliminate them,” study author Joe Imad told Canwest News. “Modelling zombies would be the same as modelling swine flu, with some differences for sure, but it is much more interesting to read.”
Given our worldwide success in acting quickly and in a unified manner to stop the spread of swine flu, I’m going to redouble work on that bunker under the Nature office.