Hollywood has amplified the idea of a zombie apocalypse for a long time, and the stories have grown increasingly popular in pop culture, particularly due to TV shows like ‘The Walking Dead‘ and movies like ‘World War Z.’
However, when you take science fiction out of the equation and add real-world science into it, a zombie virus looks a little less far-fetched, and perhaps a little more realistic.
RedOrbit reached out to a couple of microbiologists to weigh in on the subject of a “what-if” zombie virus in a real-world science-driven scenario. The scientists were asked to dream up a scenario in which a zombie virus could become reality, taking Hollywood out of the picture and instead use what they know about microbiology. Interestingly, both scientists had the same answer for a source: rabies.
“I think that the Zombie Virus already exists (almost): Rabies. Infection is nearly 100 percent lethal, i.e. it turns you into the walking dead (for a while at least), and it causes you to change your behavior by reprogramming you to bite other people to spread the infection. Now if only it kept the corpse walking around,” Jonathan D. Dinman, PhD, Professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Molecular Genetics at the University of Maryland, told redOrbit.
Essentially, the rabies virus would need to be slightly altered, or would have to evolve, in a way to keep people kicking and screaming for their next victim rather than killing them off just a few days after symptoms occur.
Rabies has to incubate inside the body before showing signs of infection, which includes anxiety, confusion, hallucinations, paralysis, agitation, hyper salivation, difficulty swallowing and hydrophobia — fear of water. This incubation period can last anywhere from 10 days to a year, meaning a “zombie virus outbreak” may look a little slower and less “viral” than movies tend to portray.
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