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Zombie Outbreak 2012?
A Commentary

A spate of incidents in recent weeks involving flesh-eating (and an apparently reanimated dead person) has raised the specter of a zombie outbreak.

Below is a timeline of the events:

Are these incidents related? Are they suggestive of a zombie outbreak?

The Miami incident certainly triggered a fair share of zombie-like behavior among the media. Every incident with even a tangential association with it became front-page news. The words "zombie apocalypse" appeared again and again online and in print.

As a former member of the FVZA, I try not to get caught up in the media frenzy and prefer to take a more analytical approach to these events. The incidents in Miami and Louisiana involving Mr. Eugene and Mr. Jacquneaux (pictured below) have me most concerned, as they were geographically close enough to suggest an outbreak.

Rudy EugeneCarl Jacquneaux
Face eaters Rudy Eugene (left) and Carl Jacquneaux

Anytime you see a series of incidents within a small geographical area, you have to consider that something is spreading from person to person. Homeless people, like the man in Miami, are often the first victims.

Incidents that smack of zombie activity require special attention. Police and public health authorities should, at minimum, do the following:

  1. Look for signs of early-stage zombieism during the initial physical examination
    At first glance, early-stage zombies can be difficult to distinguish from drunks or drugged-out people. A quick post-mortem examination should look for unusual amounts of lividity, or pooled blood, and a lower-than-expected body temperature. The human body typically loses about 1.5 degrees (F) of temperature after death. The body temperature of an early-stage zombie will be 20 to 30 degrees colder.
  2. Autopsy
    The autopsy will show significant thinning of the cerebral cortex and thickening in the jaw musculature. The blood will be much darker in color.
  3. Viral assay
    Regardless of the physical condition of the body, any person who displays zombie-like symptoms should undergo a simple blood test to detect the presence of the virus. The assay is the best way to provide a definitive conclusion. Unfortunately, these assays, once widely available, are now stored at the CDC headquarters in Atlanta, and manufacturers no longer make them. I've urged the CDC to make these assays available at least on a regional level.

If a zombie outbreak is detected, public safety officials should warn people to stay in their homes while police ramp up patrols with an eye toward anyone who is aggressive and unresponsive to commands. The authorities also should close off roads leading into and out of any area where biting incidents have occurred.

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