Posts Tagged zombies

Zombie Apocalypse and Herd Immunity

I cross posted this at Dailykos and it was promoted to the Community Spotlight.  I’m psyched.


Since it’s halloween weekend, the tv has been filled to overflowing with a variety of horror movies.  Zombies continue to be popular.  In May, some wag at the CDC put together a short webpage on zombie apocalypse preparedness.  It was a lighthearted way to make a serious point about emergency preparedness.  Following in that tradition, here we go.

Most of the zombies movies are largely unremarkable but share a common theme – infection.  Get bitten by a zombie, turn into a zombie.  One film, Syfy’s Zombie Apocalypes explicitly invokes the concept of a viral outbreak.  Well it got me thinking about the notion of herd immunity.  If you set aside the the obvious medical flaws (you get  zombie bite and the virus turns you within minutes), the zombie movies are interesting precisely because they point to a situation in which no one has immunity, in which there is no immunity at all.  Everyone gets the virus and everyone dies from it.

It got me thinking, though, despite being an otherwise awful movie, 28 Weeks Later portrayed a viable scenario – some people are immune to the zombie virus.  This created the promise that someday a vaccine could be found to prevent zombification.  Some small portion of the population is genetically immune to HIV; some individuals are not immune to HIV but for some reason their immune systems fight it off.  Some individuals and their descendants appear to have some form of natural immunity to the Black Death.  I’m sure we could find individuals who have natural resistance to many other diseases (which might be total immunity or a strong immune response that prevents them getting ill or seriously ill). Read the rest of this entry »

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