Is it possible for a virus to mutate and create what pop-culture has collectively termed “zombies”? Let’s be very clear, The Centers for Disease Control has not said “no”. In an Email sent to the Huffington Post CDC spokesman David Daigle wrote, “CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms)”
You read that correctly. They don’t know.
In an article titled, How to Enginner a Zombie Virus, published in December of 2010, George Dvorsky explained how such a virus might occur.
While it doesn’t necessarily speak to the kind of speculative fiction that I normally enjoy, it does offer some food for thought as far a the science is concerned. And it got me thinking: Could such a thing ever happen? Moreover, given the potential power of future technologies, could a ‘zombie virus’ be deliberately engineered? The more I thought about this, the more I became convinced that such a thing might actually be possible.
National Geographic, in October of the same year, also explained that there was certainly a possibility for a virus to cause unusual behavior.
Combine rabies with the ability of a flu virus to spread quickly through the air, and you might have the makings of a zombie apocalypse.
What’s more terrifying is that some viruses have already mutated in nature causing zombie-like behavior in other species. In September of 2011 Allie Wilkinson wrote an article called, How a brain-manipulating virus turns caterpillars into zombies. In it she explains,
there’s at least one behavior-modifying virus. Just as the parasitic organisms do, baculoviruses change their host’s behavior for their own benefit, ensuring their propagation. When infected with a baculovirus, European gypsy moth caterpillars behave in a way that healthy gypsy moth caterpillar never would.
This is a clear example of a virus disrupting the normal behavior of a species. And guess what? This is not science fiction; it has already happened. So the next time the CDC or another government agency issues a statement saying there is nothing to worry about, take a moment and do some research. The “zombie apocalypse” may not be upon us yet, but it is certainly a possibility.