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How the Zombie Apocalypse Is Totally Possible.

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How Zombies Could Actually Happen: A Research Paper Imagine a person infected with a disease to the point that they are some how no longer who they were before. The disease would take over the brain and make the body do only one thing, infect others. Sounds like a bad horror movie? Well think again. There are plenty of viruses, fungi, parasites, and chemicals in the world that affect the brain already and could cause such a thing to happen. The “zombie” wouldn’t be eating brains but it would want to spread the virus. Who is to say that a virus cannot mutate into something horrendous. This essay will show you that there are viruses, fungi, parasites, and chemicals that either can or have the potential to make people or animals into walking dead. Where did the idea of zombies come from? Zombies originated in Haiti as a sort of voodoo slave labor. What would happen was the person would be fed or rubbed with a mixture of the skin of the common toad and puffer fish. The skin of the common toad can actually kill people but the important part of it is that it is an incredibly strong pain killer. The puffer fish is extremely poisonous. It puts you in a coma in a near death state. People in Haiti are buried very soon after death and would be in the ground in less than 8 hours. The “dead person” would be dug up and fed datura, a plant with mind blowing after affects. According to Scientist Karl Kruszelnicki “Datura breaks your links with reality, and then destroys all recent memories. So you don't know what day it is, where you are and, worst of all, you don't even know who you are. The zombies are in a state of semi-permanent induced psychotic delirium.” (Kruszelnicki abc.net) These brainwashed and once “dead” people would be sold in to slavery and obey whatever their master said. These were the first zombie. Scariest part about these is that these could still occur today. If someone were to rub you with this concoction and then feed you datura after you wake up you would be their zombie slave until you really die. However these zombies can not necessarily spread their afflictions to anyone else. However they should be mentioned due to the fact that they are where zombies originated and they are accounted as real life zombies. Another account of real life zombies is Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, a fungus that infects ants. The fungus has a very strange way of acting, it takes over the brain and higher functions of the ant and makes it do its bidding. Katherine Harmon from Scientific American describes the process: “Once infected, the spore-possessed ant will climb down from its normal habitat and bite down, with what the authors call a “death grip” on a leaf and then die.” (Katherine scientificamerican.com). However where the leaf they anchor themselves on is pretty much the same every time an ant is taken over. Then the fungus would grow and sprout spores, reproducing and causing more to be spread. This fungus also gives us the first example of a possibility of an infection. Not only is there Ophiocordyceps unilateralis but according to Science Daily 4 more species of this fungus have been discovered, all doing along the same lines as the first one. (ScinceDaily sciencedaily.com). This could mean that somewhere, undiscovered in the world could be a fungus that could do the same to us. Also through common animal mutation, which fungi follow, it could adapt to infect the much faster, much more versatile human being and take over us. We would be nothing more than a pawn to this fungus. However this idea isn’t even the scariest. We already have many pathogens that can infect humans, and it could be anything. But fungi aren’t the only kind of living organism that infects others. Parasites have been around for millions and millions of years. There are some parasites that are feet long and there are some that are very small. Now imagine if over half the population of the planet is infected with a parasite that resides in the brain. Tough to imagine? Luckily you do not have to, it already exits. It’s called toxoplasmosa gondii and it can affect how people and animals react. It begins with a rat. The rat that is infect with this parasite would want to go towards the cats, not away from them like a normal rat. This would cause them to get eaten and the cats to spread the parasite in their stomach. But humans can get infected too. Carl Zimmer says:
Some scientists believe that Toxoplasma changes the personality of its human hosts, bringing different shifts to men and women. Parasitologist Jaroslav Flegr of Charles University in Prague administered psychological questionnaires to people infected with Toxoplasma and controls. Those infected, he found, show a small, but statistically significant, tendency to be more self-reproaching and insecure. Paradoxically, infected women, on average, tend to be more outgoing and warmhearted than controls, while infected men tend to be more jealous and suspicious. (Zimmer corante.com)
Also it has been shown to lead to schizophrenia in people because it affects certain neurons in the brain. But the scariest part is if that you are a pregnant woman infected with this parasite and give birth, the child is very likely to grow up and have schizophrenia. Parasites are very deadly as is but a parasite that can change how you act and how your children act can be a devastating thought to most people. Diseases, however are much more common. Mad cow disease (also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a disease that only infects cows. According to the CDC website
BSE (bovine spongiform encephalopathy) is a progressive neurological disorder of cattle that results from infection by an unusual transmissible agent called a prion. The nature of the transmissible agent is not well understood. Currently, the most accepted theory is that the agent is a modified form of a normal protein known as prion protein. For reasons that are not yet understood, the normal prion protein changes into a pathogenic (harmful) form that then damages the central nervous system of cattle. (cdc.gov)
Anything that infects the central nervous system also has the possibility of infecting the brain. Mad cows have a change in behavior, movement issues, trouble standing, weight loss despite eating, decreased milk, and then death. (emedicinehealth.com) But that’s only in cow’s right? Wrong when a human eats the infected meat of a cow they can get infected with something called Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. The symptoms for CJD are
“Rapidly developing delirium or dementia (over the course of a few weeks or months), Blurred vision (sometimes), Changes in gait (walking), Hallucinations, Lack of coordination (for example, stumbling and falling), Muscle twitching, Muscle stiffness, Myoclonic jerks or seizures, Nervous, jumpy feelings, Personality changes, Profound confusion, disorientation, Sleepiness, and Speech impairment” (Nlm.nih.gov)
If someone was to walk up to me with all these symptoms I would think that they were infected with something. Think about your stereotyped zombies: Dementia Changes in gait, lack of coordination, muscle twitching, stiffness, jerks, and the obvious personality changes. People with this disease already sound like they are infected with some sort of zombie virus. Now what if the virus were to mutate. They say that you never catch the same cold twice because the virus is always changing into a completely new one. What if Mad Cow disease became Mad Zombie disease? There wouldn’t have to be much of a change in the virus to reach the depiction of the zombies in the movie 28 Days Later, mobs of angry infected people that only want to do harm. There are other very common diseases that affect the brain as well. Let’s begin with rabies. How is rabies transferred? That’s right through contact through a bite or scratch from an infected animal or through large amounts of it in the air. According to Richard Harrigan the symptoms in animals are
“Animals infected with rabies may appear sick, crazed, or vicious. This is the origin of the phrase "mad dog. However, animals infected with rabies may also appear overly friendly, docile, or confused. They may even appear completely normal. Seeing a normally nocturnal wild animal during the day (for example, a bat or a fox) or seeing a normally shy wild animal that appears strange or even friendly should raise suspicion that the animal may have rabies.” (Harrigan emedicinehealth.com)
Now rabies in humans manifests itself in more of a very sick form. However viruses are always changing. Maybe one day a rabies will change so that the disease described above will become something that is also in humans. It would be a sick, crazed, or vicious human who decides to bite another, spreading his or her disease to the new one. There is one last disease that effects the brain that will be touched on in this essay, Alzheimer’s Disease. First thing first, I am not saying that people with Alzheimer’s are zombies. Alzheimer’s is a horrible disease and I am strictly looking at the biology of it and how it affects the brain. This being said, this disease is mostly seen in older people, but has been reported in younger and younger people. It destroys nerve cells and decreases chemicals causing certain connections to the brain to be lost. The symptoms are loss of language, memory, perception, emotional behavior or personality, and the loss of cognitive skills. (ncbi.nlm.nih.gov). These are commonly seen throughout zombie Loir. But what is very interesting is the cutting off of the connections in the brain. It is well known that the frontal lobe of the brain is the “human” part of the brain. It is what holds your personality and who you are. Now what if this connection were to be cut? Would you be a mindless husk like the zombies of Haiti or would something new happen? Zombies, as I’m sure you can tell, are not an everyday thing. We aren’t like Shaun of the Dead with zombie Olympics. Most people would scoff at the idea of zombies being a real thing. However there are some real life examples of “zombies” and some solid ideas on how their existence could be real. We have chemicals, parasites, fungi, and many diseases that affect the brain causing many ways for a zombie to actually happen. Zombies could one day shamble across the world and science would actually be able to have an explanation for it.

Works Cited
"Alzheimer's Disease - PubMed Health." Http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. A.D.A.M, 4 Oct. 2010. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001767/>.

"CDC - Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE)." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 17 Mar. 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2011. <http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvrd/bse/>.

"Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia." National Library of Medicine
- National Institutes of Health. Medline Plus, 19 Oct. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000788.htm>.

Harmon, Katherine. "Fungus Makes Zombie Ants Do All the Work: Scientific
American."Science News, Articles and Information | Scientific American. Scientific American, 31 July 2009. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=fungus-makes-zombie-ants>.

Harrigan, Richard. "Rabies Causes, Symptoms, Treatment - Rabies Symptoms on
EMedicineHealth." Emedicinehealth.com. Emedicinehealth, 10 Aug. 2005. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.emedicinehealth.com/rabies/page3_em.htm>.
Kruszelnicki, Karl S. "Zombie › News in Science (ABC Science)." ABC.net.au. 9 Dec. 2004. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2004/12/09/1260445.htm>.

ScienceDaily. "Four New Species of Zombie Ant Fungi Discovered in Brazilian
Rainforest."Science Daily: News & Articles in Science, Health, Environment & Technology. Science Daily, 2 Mar. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/03/110302171309.htm>.

Wisniewski, Thomas. "Mad Cow Disease and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease Causes,
Symptoms, Treatment - Mad Cow Disease Symptoms on EMedicineHealth."Emedicinehealth.com. Emedicinehealth, 12 Sept. 2005. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.emedicinehealth.com/mad_cow_disease_and_variant_creutzfeldt-jakob_dis/page3_em.html>.

Zimmer, Carl. "The Return of the Puppet Masters. The Loom: A Blog about Life, past and
Future." Corante: Technology, Business, Media, Law, and Culture News from the Blogosphere. Corante, 17 Jan. 2006. Web. 24 Oct. 2011. <http://www.corante.com/loom/archives/2006/01/17/the_return_of_the_puppet_masters.php>.

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