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It Takes a Thief

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ENGL 1301 Zombie Apocalypse: It takes a thief Are you prepared for a Zombie Apocalypse? Throughout the years, movies, television shows, and other miscellaneous things have heightened a large number of people’s suspicion about the possibility of disease-ridden humans taking over the world. In reality, that atrocity is not very far-fetched. First of all, what does the word zombie mean? There are several possible etymologies of the word zombie. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the word entered English circa 1871; it's derived from the Louisiana Creole or Haitian Creole zonbi, which in turn is of Bantu origin. A zonbi is a person who is believed to have died and been brought back to life without speech or free will. One possible origin is nzambi, the Kongo word meaning "spirit of a dead person." Another is jumbie, the West Indian term for "ghost.” With so many vaccines and medicines being mass produced without the sufficient steps taken to test the results, the chance of humans contracting unimaginable side effects is a rational possibility. All it takes is a host. “A reservoir host, or simply a reservoir, refers to a living (human, animal, insect, or plant) or non-living (soil, water) entity where a disease-causing organism can normally live and multiply. A host in which a parasite resides to sexual maturity is called a primary host, and a host in which a parasite spends only part of its life cycle or does not reach sexual maturity is called an intermediate host.”(Hoyle) But this is happening right now, in our wild kingdom. There has been research in how a fungus, an insect and parasites/virus can manipulate other insects and animals to have a different way of how they normally act. Throughout history the world has protected itself from being over-populated by one species through pandemic diseases, the same way is how nature behaves with insects. In the human race, we have the Black Death of the 14th century massacred millions throughout Europe, the Plague of Justinian from 541 to 750 eliminated almost half of the world’s known population (Tharoor), the influenza of 1918-19 killed tens of millions of people (Silver), the Third Pandemic of China killed over 12 million people (Sanburn) and still today, HIV and AIDS ravage Africa with over 25% of the population affected. In Katherine Harmon research, in the wild life world, the Ophiocordyceps unilateralis fungus infects an ant making the insect be possessed. After the infection the ant climbs down the tree and bites on a leaf and dies. The amazing part is how accurate the position of the ant is to the right environment. The fungus drives the ant to the precise direction, height, humidity and temperature. This allows the fungus to grow by coming out from behind the ants head. The spores from the fungus release after a few weeks and spreads to other ants. However, you also have insects that control other insects. There are different kinds of wasps that have a way to make other insects their host and control that host behavior to the wasp advantage. The wasp (of the genus Glyptapanteles) controls a caterpillar by producing a toxin before it emerges. The caterpillar is forced to be the bodyguard and make a cocoon to protect the wasp larvae. The emerald cockroach wasp (Ampulex compressa) injects a toxin into the cockroach head, enslaving the roach to make it go to the wasps nest. The wasp lays an egg in the cockroach body and it becomes food and shelter for the larvae. Finally, parasites also have a way to control the host. After the harrowing hairworm (Spinochordodes tellinii) gets in a crickets body and eats the insides, it makes the cricket that cannot swim, jump in the water. Then, the hairworm emerges to continue its life cycle in the water. The flatworm (Leucochloridium paradoxum) gets inside a snail and after it grows, it makes the snail come out of its shell. It pushes up the tentacles of the snail and it attracts birds. After the snail gets eaten by the birds, it starts the cycle all over again by infecting the bird and infects the snails again with the bird droppings. Ants also eating from the birds droppings end up with a nematode parasite that lays eggs in the ant, making them bright red and round. The ants end up looking like the berries birds like to eat, making it another cycle. Rabies is also a virus that can be transmitted from a bat or a dog to humans. There is another parasite, the Toxoplasma gondii, it lives by been in between felines and rodents. It changes the mouse behavior to become more daring, less afraid of the smell of a cat. “The chemical changes brought on by the parasite appear to have some of the same side effects on humans, who can be infected by ingesting parasite eggs from cat feces.”(Harmon) “Toxoplasma appears to manipulate human personality by the same adaptations that normally help it complete its life cycle” (Meader) A Zombie Apocalypse might be just a science fiction story to many, something that is just impossible to become a reality. “Even people may not be fully immune to such manipulation” (Harmon). Viruses have been known to jump from country to country in a matter of hours. Humans can also be manipulated from inside. You have rabies that makes humans and other animals get a lot of saliva, forming foam that spread the virus. (McKenna) Also, the above mentioned parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite has shown higher risky behavior, on those who are infected by it. There might be many more findings on viruses and parasites that can use humans as a host and it might be too late before the CDC finds a cure. There is a solid possibility of a Zombie Apocalypse. Everyone should fear the zombie pandemic, because it will happen. It is just a matter of time. It’s up to humankind to be prepared. The zombie disease may come about in a variety of different ways: through natural or unnatural causes, through scientific experimentation or from building chemical mutation– we do not know how it will happen, which is why we can’t avoid it. Nevertheless, it is a potent threat to humankind because it can affect all of us, changing the course of history and the world over.

WORKS CITED Harmon, Katherine. “Fungus Makes Zombie Ants Do All the Work” Scientific American 21 July 2009: 44. Scientific American Online. Web 21 Nov. 2013. Harmon, Katherine. “Zombie Creatures: What Happens When Animals Are Possessed by a Parasitic Puppet Master?” Scientific American 30 Oct. 2009: 36. Scientific American Online. Web. 21 Nov. 2013. Hoyle, Brian. "Host and Vector." Infectious Diseases: In Context. Ed. Brenda Wilmoth Lerner and K. Lee Lerner. Vol. 1. Detroit: Gale, 2008. 408-410. In Context Series. Opposing Viewpoints in Context. Web. 21 Nov. 2013. McKenna, Maryn. "Rethinking Rabies." Scientific American 309.2 (2013): 28-30. Health Source: Nursing/Academic Edition. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

Meader, Gloria. “Cat Parasite May Affect Cultural Traits in Human Populations.” Sound Waves Sep. 2006:7-8. Print. "Plagues and Epidemics." Chambers Dictionary of World History. Ed. Marsden, Hilary. 2005. History Study Center. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

Sanburn, Silver, and Tharoor. “Top 10 Terrible Epidemics.” Time 26 Oct. 2010: 3. Time Online. Web. 21 Nov. 2013.

“zombie.” Word Central:Merridiam-Webster’s Student’s Electronic Dictionary. 2001. http://www.m-w.com/dictionary.htm (21 Nov. 2013)

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