Posted in Monday Mayhem

Are We Ready?

A virus can start as innocent as a cough. It can progress to chills and a fever. But unless someone identifies it as fatal, the public may treat it as a simple case of the sniffles.

Are we ready?

SARS
SARS

If we’ve learned anything from past outbreaks, we would know we’re never quite ready for what would come next when a contagion strikes. Having lived through the SARS epidemic when it hit Toronto in 2003, I saw firsthand what unpreparedness and paranoia could do to a city.

Let’s talk a bit about this for Monday Mayhem.

At the time, I was taking the train in and out of the city. My commute was an hour one way. During the course of the ride, people would come and go, and not a day would go by that the front page didn’t feature the latest SARS mortality rates. The public was on edge. During my rides, a noticeable silence had hit commuters. Many were afraid to speak, as they didn’t want anyone to think they were possible carriers. Who knew if the virus was airborne?

Some riders wore masks, while others sat in different places. The ends of the train, where the single seats rested next to the doors, became gold. They were away from everyone, and the doors would make for a quick exit—just in case. When people boarded, those seats became the first ones to fill.

And if you had coughed, the dirty looks would have carried until the following week where you either had decided to transfer to another car or find yourself another train.

In Canada, SARS had 251 cases with 44 being fatal. That is an 18% fatality rate, the highest in the world. China had 5328 cases, but their fatality rate was an astounding 6.6% (Source: WHO).

Are we ready?

Ebola
Ebola

In recent weeks, the Ebola virus has once again resurfaced. Between 1976 and 2012, 2328 reported cases affected regions as far as Juba, Sudan and Orientale Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo. In 2014 alone, Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia have had 759 confirmed cases so far (Source: WHO).

What makes this outbreak so different is its reach. No longer limited to remote areas, it is now surfacing in populated areas where air travel is common. The CDC says the incubation period can be anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, stomach pain, and lack of appetite.

The virus works by suppressing the body’s natural ability to clot thereby liquefying organs.

I can only hope we are ready.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ALIEN INVASION, on sale October 21.

What precautions have you taken to prevent the spread of germs in your household?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Animals

Why aren’t there any zombie animals in The Walking Dead? I’ve wondered this since the first episode. I have yet to see a zombified dog, cat, horse or goat, let alone a zombified pig, donkey or squirrel. And as anyone who follows my Monday Mayhem series would know, I can’t let go of an idea until I’ve exhausted all possible solutions to the question.

Zombie Ant
Zombie Ant

During my first stop of the show’s folklore, I looked at the virus that’d infected the walkers. For those unfamiliar with the show, walkers are what become of humans who contract the deadly virus ending human life, spawning a zombie life—or rather an undead life, if that makes sense. I noticed those who’d fallen victim to the virus caught it from a bite delivered by the infected. The other form of transmission affects victims after they’re dead, lending credence that the virus always existed in humans but a condition occurred to awaken the dormant strain. The typical effects of the condition varies: Pale skin, fainting, dehydration, chills, soreness, loss of hair, portions of scalp missing, fever/hallucinations, dilated pupils and coughing blood.

Once I’d learned about the virus and its effects on humans, I next investigated its transmission to animals. Apparently, if a walker encounters an animal it will do what it can to eat it as the animal breathes its last. This rule of thumb goes for all living creatures a walker meets. The caveat to this scenario rests on the expected behavior of the animal bitten by the walker. Like humans, animals should rise from the dead after the bite. They don’t. Therefore, walkers can bite human and animal alike, but only humans will spawn as the undead.

This is where I tossed my preconceived notions and allowed myself the benefit to indulge in some interesting speculation.

West Nile Virus
West Nile Virus

To begin, the general makeup of a virus dictates its effectiveness on its target. It is common for a virus to affect only humans. However, when a virus hops from one species to another (eg. human-to-human, animal-to-human), this process goes by the name of zoonosis. The West Nile Virus falls into this category. Birds transmit to humans, but humans can’t transmit to dogs and cats since these animals possess the immunity to fight the bug. The opposite stands true when humans carry the virus spreading it to animals, called reverse zoonosis or anthroponosis. In The Walking Dead, the infection bounces from human to human making it a zoonosis-type virus. Therefore, the possibility we haven’t seen zombie animals on the show lies in the fact the infection itself cannot spread to animals.

Sounds good, doesn’t it? It’s a dry explanation, but good, nonetheless. Don’t you think? But what if science or medicine has nothing to do with the lack of zombie animals?

Another theory came to mind. Growing up I read the story about Noah’s Ark. I read how God became so angered with humanity’s penchant for sinning that he brought a flood upon the earth to wipe everyone out of existence. You might call it divine retribution. In the story, God commanded Noah to build him an ark to house all the animals of the world. Too bad mosquitos survived. At least we have our delicious turkey for Thanksgiving. Anyway, this demonstrates God’s love for animals. Perhaps we don’t see zombie animals in The Walking Dead because it’s God’s way of protecting them from his anger directed toward humanity due to the disobedience of his law, much like he had done during the time of Noah.

That makes sense, too. Right?

Wrong. It has nothing to do with zoonosis. It has nothing to do with God’s wrath. There is a reason, though. Avid fans of the series probably already know this. Some of you may have even skipped to the bottom of this post to read this final paragraph. Are you ready for it? Are you? Okay. The reason The Walking Dead does not feature zombie animals is that the original comic book illustrator Charlie Adlard “loves drawing people, loves drawing zombies, does not enjoy drawing animals so much,” Robert Kirkman, the creator of the series said on Conan, Mar. 7, 2013. That’s it. Nothing scientific. Nothing divine. It’s a personal preference. And here we’re thinking it has to do with some grand scheme.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

Did you think the answer would have been a complicated scientific explanation?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Apocalypse: Assumptions

What if everything we’ve read about the zombie apocalypse is true? What if there is a dreaded undead virus that will render the dead as living corpses, what then? What about all those movies about survival in the end times? Does this mean it would be wise for us to heed their advice and treat everyone as an enemy? As part of my Monday Mayhem series, let’s explore zombie apocalypse assumptions and determine if we really do have a chance or not.

Do we have a chance?
Do we have a chance?

Let’s assume a zombie apocalypse is possible. That somewhere in this finite world we call earth, there’s a virus capable of turning ordinary humans into raging monsters bent on sucking the life out of humanity.

Let’s assume a science experiment can and will go horribly wrong. Or a culture exists in the nether-reaches of some forest somewhere that can raise the dead in some mysterious incantation meant to bring loved ones back from the grave with absolute terrible consequences.

Let’s assume those initial victims (patient zeroes, first fruits, etc.) begin to wreak havoc with society. That the whole thing might occur in a deserted place or a populated city somewhere, which then spreads from animal to human, human to human, curse to human, all in a wave of terror that sweeps civilization as we know it today to bring a catastrophic onslaught of destruction on everything we know and love.

Will we survive?
Will we survive?

Let’s assume measures we’ve taken to protect ourselves from the cataclysmic event fails. Our water supply dwindles, our food disappears, our homes become unlivable, and our culture vanishes before our very eyes, what then? After all, all it takes is one bite, one drop of blood, one secretion of saliva to spread the condition to someone else. Who’s to say we’ll be safe?

Let’s assume the government has an exit strategy in place for all those deemed valuable to bringing about the replenishment of humanity in a new society. Will it survive? What if the rebuilding process involves creating a walled city strong enough to protect the last of us from harm’s way? What if the city has checkpoints in place, guards at every corner, cameras to monitor residents, daily and weekly spot checks to ensure no one—absolutely no one—poses a threat to the rest of society. What then, will we be safe?

And let us assume we do have a chance at survival. That we do end up fostering the new birth of the ideal society. That we will lead those less resilient on a quest to bring about the change we so much desired before the zombie apocalypse occurred. Will we manage?

If society has taught us anything, it’s Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. No amount of planning will change the inevitable outcome we will experience at the hands of zombies. We may run, we may hide, and we may believe we’re safe behind walls of stone fashioned to keep the undead at bay, but if it’s going to happen, it will happen. Nothing can prevent it. It’s a law of nature to deceive ourselves into believing we can survive.

Then again, maybe it’s all fiction and we can laugh at those who believe otherwise. Just a thought.

RANGER MARTIN AND THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE, now on sale.

What do you think? Can a zombie apocalypse occur? What are our chances at survival?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

A Zombie Primer

I’ve always wanted to write a zombie Q&A for Monday Mayhem. Given some readers visit my site via search engines, I thought I’d provide answers to the most popular questions. Of course these are my opinions and I wouldn’t want to give the impression I know all there is to know about the subject. So think of me answering these questions flying by the seat of my pants.

Zombie banner
Zombie banner

What is the definition of a zombie?

In its purest form, a zombie is a soulless human either brought back to life by supernatural or biological means, or changed by a foreign agent. It is not sentient, thus it lacks the ability to question one’s own existence.

How does one become a zombie?

There are two schools of thought: (1) a human dies, and comes back from the dead. This can happen by voodoo, witchcraft or science. (2) A virus infects a human rendering them intellectually dead but physically alive.

How does one kill a zombie?

The most popular belief is to destroy the brain. Methods to achieve this result are as follows: shooting, stabbing, drilling, traumatic impact, etc. Decapitation may seem like a workable solution, however, in all likelihood it will lead to a bodiless zombie. When unsure, a sharp object to the brain will do the trick.

How to Identify a Zombie
How to Identify a Zombie

Why do zombies crave human flesh?

There is no real answer. Some sources (legend, history, and Hollywood) may attribute zombie health to human flesh eating. If this were the case then it would necessitate zombies to require drink, sleep and other means by which to maintain proper balance of bodily functions normally attributed to humans. The closest answer is zombies eat human flesh because it’s in their nature, much like sharks (see my post The Three Commandments for a more elaborate answer).

Are there different types of zombies?

Yes. There are humans who were once dead, have risen from the dead, and are now alive. These are classic zombies. Then there are those humans who have changed into zombies due to the ingestion of a virulent agent.

Why do zombies hunt in packs?

Not all zombies hunt in packs. There will always be stragglers. The majority do though because of how the zombie apocalypse may have affected a particular area. If huge swaths of people become zombified, the natural tendency is for survivors to encounter them in packs. This will happen in countries where cities are more densely populated.

What is the zombie apocalypse?

The zombie apocalypse is a fictional scenario where zombies rise in an attempt to overthrow humans as the dominate species.

Do zombies take restroom breaks?

Most fictional accounts of zombies indicate an awful stench emanates from their body. It is not know what this smell is. Therefore, it would be difficult to assume that zombies practice proper hygiene in regards to their elimination habits.

Do you have any questions I may have missed? How about opinions?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Death’s Cure

Back in June last year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a statement denying knowledge of any virus that may reanimate dead tissue. O-kay. Further, they denied knowledge of any virus that would cause zombie-like symptoms. Right. This is my Monday Mayhem post and—I’m sorry, I have to keep from laughing. Give me a second. Ahem…

Nurse
Nurse

In an email to Huffington Post, David Daigle, the American health agency representative wrote: “CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms).”

Did you catch that? They’re saying they don’t know of a virus or condition that could reanimate dead tissue. They didn’t say it wasn’t possible. Seriously, what goes on behind those doors of the CDC?

You know, another fellow also believed in the reanimation of the dead. He was an obsessed scientist with the idea he could create life. He had an assistant who would provide him with the raw materials. He’d harvest the dead parts, sew them together and call the result human. But nothing could be further from the truth.

I’m talking of course of Dr. Victor Frankenstein and his inept assistant Igor. His ideas were commendable. Take the dead and breathe life back into them. Nothing short of a miracle, really. The results, however, told of a different story. A story of a scientist gone mad who wanted more than anything than to play God. His creature became one of the first known zombies in classical literature.

Frankenstein
Frankenstein

What makes Frankenstein’s story unique, or rather the lesson we can learn from the monster tale is “no good deed goes unpunished.” (I put it in quotes because it’s a famous saying. Didn’t know what else to do with it). In his zeal to create life out of nothingness, the good doctor didn’t stop to ask if he should. Thus, he created a walking corpse with barely enough intelligence to scour a frying pan.

The most horrific events to have happen to humanity have always been because of good intentions.

Getting back to what the CDC didn’t say. They didn’t say dead tissue reanimation isn’t possible. This leads one to conclude, albeit speculation based on evidentiary inference, that the CDC is studying dead matter reanimation. Yeah, this is the stuff that keeps me up at night.

What if it were true? What if we had the power to eradicate death? Then what?

Imagine a world where no one died. There would be no need for life insurance. Funeral homes would go out of business. All that cemetery land could go to house the living instead. We’d have more money for the economy, since mandatory retirement would disappear. We’d have less social programs. Terminal illnesses would be a thing of the past. And there would be no need for half-price Tuesdays for seniors.

Ah, can you hear the wheels of good intention churn?

If no one dies, how are we to feed everyone? When the cemetery land vanishes, where is everyone going to live? Will there be enough jobs to go around? And the big question: If we eliminate death does this mean we can eliminate aging? Because if we haven’t eliminated aging—we’ve got a major problem.

After about a hundred years, guaranteed we’ll have a real zombie apocalypse on our hands.

Comedic genius George Carlin once said:

“You know what I think they ought to do with those Miss America contests? I think they ought to keep making the losers come back until they win. I’ll tell you, that would get a little spooky after about thirty five years or so, huh?”

What do you think? Are we on the road to creating a Frankenstein monster? Should the CDC open its research facilities to third party monitoring?

Posted in Monday Mayhem

Zombie Apocalypse: Ground Zero

I’ve always wondered if a zombie apocalypse were to take place now, where would it hit first? It’s Monday Mayhem and this has been on my mind all weekend.

Discovery Special: It Could Happen
Discovery Special: It Could Happen

You know, I’ve thought about this question. It’s not one of those precious topics floating around lunchrooms across America. Like, how many Twitter followers does Lady Gaga have? Does Justin Bieber like chocolate chip ice cream? What will Katy Perry choose as her next hair color? Or some other mind-numbing question like that. No, since I began my study into zombie propagation methods, I’ve pondered on possible contagion locations.

According to zombie folklore, zombies become zombies when a virus infects and kills a victim. The victim rises from the dead as a zombie and carries on the cycle of infection by biting other victims. That is, if there’s anything left of the victims after the zombie attacks. Zombies are known to have a voracious appetite for human flesh and will do anything to consume as much of it as possible.

Which begs the question I asked earlier: Where in the world would a zombie apocalypse have a greater chance of beginning?

Let’s use some logic and think about this for a moment. It would be fair to assume a typical zombie virus falls under the category of designer viruses engineered to deliver its payload to as many victims as possible. Obviously, no one in their right mind would volunteer to release such a virus into the population, therefore, should it happen, it would happen by accident.

Contagion's a Game
Contagion’s a Game

Okay, how about location? For a virus of this magnitude to cause such devastation, the lab would have to be located near a huge population. Like a city. I did a quick search on Google for labs located near large populations and found one just outside a metropolis in a quaint suburb. Located across the street is a hotel.

Forgive me if I’m naïve, because sometimes I don’t get things right away. But if this lab should ever have a breach, isn’t it reasonable to say the hotel across the street would fall victim to the contagion first? Don’t hotels contain travelers? Travelers need airports. Aren’t airports in cities? If a whole city gets infected by these busy travelers, wouldn’t the likelihood of the contagion spreading to surrounding communities increase? And let’s not forget the infected flying out of the city. Where are they heading? Europe? Africa? China?

Now, let’s say, for the sake of argument, I’m wrong. Let’s pretend a zombie apocalypse starts in a rural community first. What are the chances of it stretching its legs beyond the borders of a small town? Do you think the military would allow it? I don’t know. Seems unlikely. The military’s response is quick when it comes to these types of situations. They’d have the location secured once they see zombies running around town trying to make meals of its residents. They’d then execute a containment protocol to prevent the spread from affecting outlining regions.

No, a zombie apocalypse wouldn’t survive in those conditions. The military would make sure of that. If it does happen, it’ll happen in a large urban area. As for my research, I’m not silly enough to reveal what I found online, although if you’re smart, you probably already figured out my Google search. You also know to which lab I’m referring.

What do you think? Big city or small town? Do you have any other locations where a zombie apocalypse could start?