Tag Archives: zombification

‘Zombie apocalypse’: Horror movie genre becomes twisted, real-life news headlines

‘Zombie apocalypse’: Horror movie genre becomes twisted, real-life news headlines

— First came Miami: the case of a naked man eating most of another man’s face. Then Texas: a mother accused of killing her newborn, eating part of his brain and biting off three of his toes. Then Maryland, a college student telling police he killed a man, then ate his heart and part of his brain.

It was different in New Jersey, where a man stabbed himself 50 times and threw bits of his own intestines at police. They pepper-sprayed him, but he was not easily subdued.

He was, people started saying, acting like a zombie. And the whole discussion just kept growing, becoming a topic that the Internet couldn’t seem to stop talking about.

The actual incidents are horrifying — and, if how people are talking about them is any indication, fascinating. In an America where zombie imagery is used to peddle everything from tools and weapons to garden gnomes, they all but beg the comparison.

Violence, we’re used to. Cannibalism and people who should fall down but don’t? That feels like something else entirely.

So many strange things have made headlines in recent days that The Daily Beast assembled a Google Map tracking “instances that may be the precursor to a zombie apocalypse.” And the federal agency that tracks diseases weighed in as well, insisting it had no evidence that any zombie-linked health crisis was unfolding.

The cases themselves are anything but funny. Each involved real people either suspected of committing unspeakable acts or having those acts visited upon them for reasons that have yet to be figured out. Maybe it’s nothing new, either; people do horrible things to each other on a daily basis.

But what, then, made search terms like “zombie apocalypse” trend day after day last week in multiple corners of the Internet, fueled by discussions and postings that were often framed as humor?

“They’ve heard of these zombie movies, and they make a joke about it,” says Lou Manza, a psychology professor at Lebanon Valley College in Pennsylvania, who learned about the whole thing at the breakfast table Friday morning when his 18-year-old son quipped that a “zombie apocalypse” was imminent.

Symbolic of both infection and evil, zombies are terrifying in a way that other horror-movie iconography isn’t, says Elizabeth Bird, an anthropologist at the University of South Florida.

Zombies, after all, look like us. But they aren’t. They are some baser form of us — slowly rotting and shambling along, intent on “surviving” and creating more of their kind, but with no emotional core, no conscience, no limits.

“Vampires have kind of a romantic appeal, but zombies are doomed,” Bird says. “Zombies can never really become human again. There’s no going back.

“That resonates in today’s world, with people feeling like we’re moving toward an ending,” she says. “Ultimately they are much more of a depressing figure.”

The “moving toward an ending” part is especially potent. For some, the news stories fuel a lurking fear that, ultimately, humanity is doomed.

Speculation varies. It could be a virus that escapes from some secret government lab, or one that mutates on its own. Or maybe it’ll be the result of a deliberate combination and weaponization of pathogens, parasites and disease.

It will, many believe, be something we’ve created — and therefore brought upon ourselves.

Zombies represent America’s fears of bioterrorism, a fear that strengthened after the 9/11 attacks, says Patrick Hamilton, an English professor at Misericordia University in Dallas, Pa., who studies how we process comic-book narratives.

Economic anxiety around the planet doesn’t help matters, either, with Greece, Italy and Spain edging closer to crisis every day. Consider some of the terms that those fears produce: zombie banks, zombie economies, zombie governments.

When people are unsettled about things beyond their control — be it the loss of a job, the high cost of housing or the depletion of a retirement account — they look to metaphors like the zombie.

“They’re mindless drones following basic needs to eat,” Hamilton says. “Those economic issues speak to our own lack of control.”

They’re also effective messengers. The Centers for Disease Control got in on the zombie action last year, using the “apocalypse” as the teaser for its emergency preparedness blog. It worked, attracting younger people who might not otherwise have read the agency’s guidance on planning evacuation routes and storing water and food.

On Friday, a different message emerged. Chatter had become so rampant that CDC spokesman David Daigle sent an email to the Huffington Post, answering questions about the possibility of the undead walking among us.

“CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead,” he wrote, adding: “(or one that would present zombie-like symptoms.)”

Zombies have been around in our culture at least since Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was published in 1818, though they really took off after George Romero’s nightmarish, black-and-white classic “Night of the Living Dead” hit the screen in 1968.

In the past several years, they have become both wildly popular and big business. Last fall, the financial website 24/7 Wall Street estimated that zombies pumped $5 billion into the U.S. economy.

“And if you think the financial tab has been high so far, by the end of 2012 the tab is going to be far larger,” the October report read.

It goes far beyond comic books, costumes and conventions.

—An Ace Hardware store in Nebraska features a “Zombie Preparedness Center” that includes bolts and fasteners for broken bones, glue and caulk for peeling skin, and deodorizers to freshen up decaying flesh. “Don’t be scared,” its website says. “Be prepared.”

—On uncrate.com, you can find everything you need to survive the apocalypse — zombie-driven or otherwise — in a single “bug-out bag.” The recommended components range from a Mossberg pump-action shotgun and a Cold Kukri machete to a titanium spork for spearing all the canned goods you’ll end up eating once all the fresh produce has vanished.

—For $175 on Amazon, you can purchase a Gnombie, a gored-out zombie garden gnome.

Maybe it’s that we joke about the things we fear. Laughter makes them manageable.

That’s why a comedy like “Zombieland,” with Woody Harrelson blasting away the undead on a roller coaster and Jesse Eisenberg stressing the importance of seatbelts is easier to watch than, say, the painful desperation and palpable apocalyptic fear of “28 Days Later” and “28 Weeks Later.”

The most compelling zombie stories, after all, are not about the undead. They’re about the living.

The popular AMC series “The Walking Dead” features zombies in all manner of settings. But the show is less about them and more about how far the small, battered band of humans will go to survive — whether they’ll retain the better part of themselves or become hardened and heartless.

It’s a familiar theme to George Romero, who told The Associated Press in 2008 that all of his zombie films have been about just that.

“The zombies, they could be anything,” he said. “They could be an avalanche, they could be a hurricane. It’s a disaster out there. The stories are about how people fail to respond in the proper way.”

Read more: SOURCE

Science Baffling Illness Strikes Africa, Turns Children Into Mindless “Zombies”

Science Baffling Illness Strikes Africa, Turns Children Into Mindless “Zombies”
Jason Mick

World Health Organization is on high alert about new Ugandan outbreak, cause is not fully known

Added commentary from Jason Oh, a Johns Hopkins Univ. public health studies student who is currently in Uganda studying the disease post-conflict transformation. Mr. Oh described some of the symptoms in more detail, and offered different perspective from the CNN reporters’ experience.

CNN has also reworded their report to tone down the suggestion of violent behavior.

It’s called the “nodding disease” and it’s a baffling illness that has struck thousands of children in northern Uganda. The illness brings on seizures, violent behavior in some (debated), personality changes, and a host of other unusual symptoms.

I. Mental Degradation: Child Victims Have no Cure, no Future

Grace Lagat, a northern Uganda native, is mother of two children — Pauline Oto and Thomas — both of whom are victims of the disease. For their safety, when she leaves the house, she now ties them up, using fabric like handcuffs. She recalls, “When I am going to the garden, I tie them with cloth. If I don’t tie them I come back and find that they have disappeared.”

Reportedly the children gnaw at their fabric restraints, like a rabid animals — or “zombies” of popular fiction — in an attempt to escape. (This is based on CNN’s commentary.)

(Jason Oh points out that the restraints are intended to protect the chidlren from harm, and from starting fires.)

The effort to restrain the children is not unwarranted. In one of the most bizarre symptoms of this tragic illness, children with the disease are reportedly setting fire to buildings in their communities. Coupled with the aimless wandering this disease provokes in victims, this is a deadly combination. More than 200 people have been killed in fires believed to be set by the zombified children.

(According to Jason Oh, there have been few reports of violent behavior. It is unclear where our primary source CNN received this information, though a reader suggested that a CDC report indicated that 10 to 15 percent of children were found to exhibit increased aggression. We were unable to locate this report.)


Nodding disease zombie child

The disease leaves child victims in an often-violent “zombiefied” state. [Image Source: CNN]

The disease is not new. It popped up in the 1960s in Sudan. From there it slowly spread to Libya and Tanzania.

The Uganda infections, though, are a new outbreak — a troubling sign. The jump into a new region could be pure coincidence, or it could indicate the disease has become more virulent or found a new transmissions vector.

Africa map
Uganda is located in central Africa [Image Source: U of Tex., Modifications: Jason Mick]

Infected children typically have regular seizures, which are proceeded by a repetitive nodding of the head. This characteristic symptom has given rise to the unofficial title for the malady.

II. World Medical Organizations Racing for a Cure

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) have been tracking the spread of this frightening ailment. Dr. Joaquin Saweka says the scene in Uganda is horrific, stating, “It was quite desperate, I can tell you. Imagine being surrounded by 26 children and 12 of them showing signs of this. The attitude was to quickly find a solution to the problem.”

Yet the WHO and CDC are not fully sure what is causing the illness, which cripples children and turns them into mindless, violence-prone zombies. The best clue they have is that most of the cases occur in regions inhabited by “Black flies”, which carry the parasitic worm Onchocerca Volvulus. That worm is responsible for another dangerous disease dubbed “river blindness”, the world’s second leading cause of infectious blindness.

(Jason Oh states that CNN misunderstood this reference. While it’s true the cause of the disease is unknown and the literature papers on the topic indicate an overlap with part of the river blindness afflicted regions, but he feels this reference was only intended to “state the obvious”, not hypothesize causation.)

Black Fly and worm
The illness may have something to do with Black flies (left, center) and their parasitic worm (right). [Image Source: WHO (left), Wikimedia Commons (center), Human Healths (right)]

However 7 percent of infected children live in regions not inhabited by the Black fly, so a link is speculative at best.

Children with the disease also frequently exhibit vitamin B6 deficiency, leading medical experts to believe that the disease may be nutrition related. However, infections by microbes, parasites, fungi, or even fungi/microbes carried by a parasitic host, can all lead to nutritional deficiencies.

Dr. Scott Dowell, director of global disease detection and emergency response at CDC, says the race is on to determine the cause and a cure. He states, “At first we cast the net wide. We ruled out three dozen potential causes and we are working on a handful of probabilities. We know from past experience an unknown disease could end up having more global implications.”

In the current cases children as old as 19 have been found to be stricken, with the majority of the worst symptoms being spread over the 3-11 age range.

One mystery surrounding the disease is the seizures themselves. While typically seizures are either randomly occurring or follow some singular cue/pattern, the nodding disease seems to have multiple triggers, including eating new foods, changing weather, and other changes.

(Jason Oh says CNN reporters messed up and that it’s familiar foods trigger the seizures, not unfamiliar ones like bars of chocolate.)

Seizure often leave the children soiled with urine and drooling. Local nurses are afraid to touch the infected. States local nurse Elupe Petua, “I feel, because I don’t know what causes it, I don’t even know how it transmits, when I touch them I feel that I can also get the infection because I don’t know what causes it.”

III. Medication is Ineffective

Anti-epileptic medication slows the onset of symptoms, but is unable to stop the progression of the disease. The seizures eventually leave many children unable to walk, only able to drag their bodies along the ground as flies tried to attack them.

Nodding disease
The current treatment approach of anti-epileptics has done little to halt the illness.
[Image Souce: CNN]

(Jason Oh says that the diseases offers a tragic, slow mental degradation, taking years to develop. Affected children, embarassed about the nodding and afraid of infecting classmates often drop out of school, while still mentally capable. Eventually the seizures lead to the more severe symptoms mentioned in the intro — loss of speech, partial paralysis, personality changes, and — according to CNN — violence.)

The government of Uganda has come under criticism for not being vocal enough in addressing the tragedy and demanding foreign aid/research expertise. Local politicians have taken to transporting victims from affected villages by bus to city hospitals in order to force the issue into the eyes of the more affluent city-dwellers.

(Jason Oh adds some perspective writing, “Uganda had asked the CDC to investigate in 2009. Most of the backlash against the government is because the Ministry of Health has been slow to use emergency funds that the Parliament made available. They’ve established many local centers for Nodding Syndrome, but they are under-staffed and under-equipped. The kids are being referred to and transported to Mulago Hospital (famous for being in The Last King of Scotland) so the top doctors at Makerere University and in Kampala can monitor them.”)

The issue is yet another woe for a nation in which the impoverished majority was terrorized for years by warlord Jospeph Kony’s militia, dubbed the “Lord’s Resistance Army.”

Mr. Kony is currently wanted by the International Criminal Court on multiple counts of violent war crimes, including rape and murder. These offenses are punishable by death (life in prison), if he is ever brought to trial. (Jason Oh clarified that under the new Rome Statute of 2002, the ICC is not allowed to seek the death penalty, even in murder cases.)

IV. What if the “Nodding Disease” Found a Way to Reach the U.S.?

Dr. Saweka says that for all the hand-waving by the government about using better anti-epileptics and offering more funding, he appreciates and shares in the villagers frustration. He states, “People complain that it looks like the lives in developing countries have less value than the lives in the western countries. When you know the root cause, you address the cure. Now you are just relieving the symptoms. We don’t expect to cure anybody.”

Ugandans
Ugandans, grief stricken, feel somewhat abandoned by the government and the wealthy developed “First World”. [Image Source: CNN]

While the “First World” may not be focused on — or even aware of — the zombification that is leaving children in these African nations violent (debated), crippled shells of their former selves — tied like dogs — it is an issue that must be addressed. After all, viruses, bacteria, parasites thanks to the wonders of evolution can mutate and adapt to new environments and new transmission vectors.

Thus this zombie virus While reports of violence or strange behavior — like biting — are disputed, the disease is very serious. It may seem like a foreign issue to regions like the U.S. and EU who are struggling with their own financial crisises. But if the illness finds a way to broaden its spread, this outbreak could cripple children across the globe.

(A word of clarification… CNN has reworded their report slightly to tone down the suggestion of violent behavior. The reports of fire starting stand, but in the new context it’s possible these were just innocent accidents triggered by the childrens’ loss of coordination.

Source: CNN

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CDC Warns Public to Prepare for ‘Zombie Apocalypse’

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CDC Warns Public to Prepare for ‘Zombie Apocalypse’

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By Joshua Rhett Miller

Are you prepared for the impending zombie invasion?

Do you have the necessary Emergency Kits and Supplies?

That’s the question posed by the Centers for Diseases Control and Prevention in a Monday blog posting gruesomely titled, “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.” And while it’s no joke, CDC officials say it’s all about emergency preparation.

“There are all kinds of emergencies out there that we can prepare for,” the posting reads. “Take a zombie apocalypse for example. That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e. You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

The post, written by Assistant Surgeon General Ali Khan, instructs readers how to prepare for “flesh-eating zombies” much like how they appeared in Hollywood hits like “Night of the Living Dead” and video games like Resident Evil. Perhaps surprisingly, the same steps you’d take in preparation for an onslaught of ravenous monsters are similar to those suggested in advance of a hurricane or pandemic.

“First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house,”
the posting continues. “This includes things like water, food, and other supplies to get you through the first couple of days before you can locate a zombie-free refugee camp (or in the event of a natural disaster, it will buy you some time until you are able to make your way to an evacuation shelter or utility lines are restored).”

Other items to be stashed in such a kit include medications, duct tape, a battery-powered radio, clothes, copies of important documents and first aid supplies.

Once you’ve made your emergency kit, you should sit down with your family and come up with an emergency plan,” the posting continues. “This includes where you would go and who you would call if zombies started appearing outside your doorstep. You can also implement this plan if there is a flood, earthquake or other emergency.”

The idea behind the campaign stemmed from concerns of radiation fears following the earthquake and tsunami that rocked Japan in March. CDC spokesman Dave Daigle told FoxNews.com that someone had asked CDC officials if zombies would be a concern due to radiation fears in Japan and traffic spiked following that mention.

“It’s kind of a tongue-in-cheek campaign,
” Daigle said Wednesday. “We were talking about hurricane preparedness and someone bemoaned that we kept putting out the same messages.”

While metrics for the post are not yet available, Daigle said it has become the most popular CDC blog entry in just two days.

“People are so tuned into zombies,” he said. “People are really dialed in on zombies. The idea is we’re reaching an audience or a segment we’d never reach with typical messages.”

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/health/2011/05/18/cdc-warns-public-prepare-zombie-apocalypse/#ixzz1MlPfBN1O

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