Archive for the ‘news’ Category

On Saturday, August 4, 2012, @ZombieHeadlines decided to try an experiment using Twitter.  The idea was to test the theory of how fast a zombie virus could spread.  By composing a specific tweet, the first “bite” would be initiated and anyone who read the tweet would become “infected” with the hypothetical virus.  Then, anyone who retweeted the message would perpetuate the experiment by acting as a hypothetical zombie as well.

The initial tweet was sent at 9:30 PM Saturday night.  It read:

An experiment: If you read this, you are now a zombie. RT and see how fast and how far the epidemic spreads. #zombies

The logic behind the experiment is nothing new.  It is the same way internet memes are perpetuated and how rumors go viral online everyday.  But, by testing the hypothetical spread of a zombie outbreak, the “social” aspect of a viral outbreak could be observed.

Of course, any resulting data would only be a rough estimate and could never be quantified with any precision due to the nature of social media BUT, those are the same challenges that first responders, scientists, and governments would face during a REAL zombie virus outbreak.  Watching trends and analyzing scattered, incomplete data would very likely be the only ways to track an actual zombie apocalypse.

The results were slow at first but began to accellerate rapidly.  Ten minutes after the first “bite” or tweet ZombieHeadlines tweeted:

Only 3 zombies in 10 minutes? Unbelievable!

But half an hour later, the experimental virus was already across the Atlantic Ocean in England:

Just over a dozen zombies now. Still mostly in the U.S. but one In the U.K. The experimental outbreak is already transatlantic

The fake virus then began to gain momentum rapidly and within an hour was actually going viral.

1 hour: Experimental epidemic is from Salt Lake City UT to NY. And has shown up in West Yorkshire, England and in Several Cities in Canada

By the second hour, the rate of transmission was over one zombie per minute.

Only two hours in and a new zombie about every 50 seconds. WOW!

At the time of this blog entry, less than 24 hours since the first experimental “bite” / tweet, there are already thousands of zombies in dozens of countries.  The hastag #ZombieTag was added to help track the experiment but, even with that addition, it is almost impossible to determine the scope of the social contagion.  There has been no decision on how long the experiment will run but updates will be posted as it continues to unfold.


A couple of weeks ago, some media outlets, including The New York Daily News, Time, and others began to distribute an article containing an email from CDC spokesman David Daigle to the Huffington Post.  They carried headlines such as: “Zombie Apocalypse: CDC Denies Existence Of Zombies Despite Cannibal Incidents” or, “CDC to America: There is no Zombie Apocalypse.”  Regardless of the news agency, all of them stated that the CDC had categorically refuted the existence of zombies.  Unfortunately, they did not read what the CDC actually said.  The exact quote is as follows:

“CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms),”

DOES NOT KNOW.  They never said zombies don’t exist and they did not deny the beginning of the Zombie Apocalypse.  The fact is, zombies do exist in real-life and there are several ways a zombie virus could develop.  And let’s be honest here, the CDC is facing increasing pressure about its ability to contain dangerous viruses.  USA Today reported,

“CDC engineers have raised written concerns about the air containment systems since at least 2010. At that time, scientists working with poxviruses, such as monkeypox, expressed concerns about airflow and said they “don’t want to go into that facility because they don’t feel comfortable with the way it is currently designed,” according to minutes from a February 2010 meeting to discuss reversing the way air flowed through the labs and animal-holding areas.”

If CDC employees don’t want to be there, should it be an agency that everyone trusts to alert them if there is a dangerous threat to public safety?

Are we certain the Zombie Apocalypse has not already begun?


Several media outlets, including CNN, are reporting a continued outbreak of what has come to be know as Nodding Disease in Northern Uganda.  The symptoms vary, and often are progressive in manifestation.  According to CNN:

Nodding disease gets its name from the strange nodding-like symptoms that children display in the first stages of a seizure. But doctors on the ground and at the U.S.-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that is the least profound effect.

Severe epilepsy-like seizures grip the children, they struggle to eat, and they become shells of their former selves. It is a progressive and debilitating syndrome that robs children of their future.

The seizures are triggered in strange ways, say community members, such as when unfamiliar food is brought to the children or when the weather changes.

There are other bizarre symptoms. Often the children will wander off by themselves and get lost in the bush. And other children will start fires, according to parents and medics in the field. Others appear confused and traumatized.

While Nodding Disease is not new and has been known about since the 1960s, there is currently no known cure nor do experts know what actually causes it.  Daily Tech reports”

Yet the WHO and CDC are not fully sure what is causing the illness, which cripples children and turns them into mindless, violence-prone zombies.  The best clue they have is that most of the cases occur in regions inhabited by “Black flies”, which carry the parasitic worm Onchocerca Volvulus.  That worm is responsible for another dangerous disease dubbed “river blindness”, the world’s second leading cause of infectious blindness.

Unfortunately, there is no conclusive evidence of that being the cause and the disease remains a mystery.  Tanzania and Sudan also report cases of Nodding Disease and with no known cause or cure, it is difficult to speculate on whether or not it will spread further.

Below is a list of strange occurrences of which people should be aware. To see the previous list of suspicious events from May 2012, pleas read the earlier post: Timeline of a Zombie Outbreak – May. The following events were not included in the earlier post and this list includes the first week of June (10 instances!). As more events come to light, they will be reported.

April 6, Shrewsbury Man Accused Of Killing Wife, Cannibalism

May 24, Mao Sugiyama Cooks, Serves Own Genitals At Banquet In Tokyo **Warning Graphic Photos**

May 28, Woman suspected of biting partner’s penis

May 30, Man cut off wife’s lips and ate them in Sweden

May 30, ‘Cannibal Monster’ Arrested In China

May 30, New Jersey man throws intestines at police after repeatedly stabbing himself

May 31, Maryland cannibal case: suspect accused of eating heart, brains

June 1, Staten Island Pizza Shop Owner Bites Mans Ear

June 3, Cannibal killer porn star ‘may have murdered before’
**Update on June 6: Severed hand and foot linked to Canadian ‘cannibal killer’

June 2, Louisiana man, Carl Jacquneaux, bites ex-wife’s husband’s face, removes chunk of skin

June 4, Former bath-salts addict: ‘It felt so evil’

June 4, South Carolina Woman, Is 5th Recent Case Of Flesh-Eating Bacteria

June 5, Police: High homeless man growls, attempts to bite off officer’s hand

June 5, Shoplifting suspect accused of biting Walmart employee

June 6, Wig Theft Suspect Bit Store Owner, Cops

June 6 (Some Vampires thrown in just for good measure) Vampire skeletons found in Bulgaria

June 7, Brazilian family claims dead boy sat up during funeral

Counting all the events from the earlier post, that’s 51 events since April and 10 events just in the first week of June!!!! Stay tuned, news of zombies and other strange events are being reported as they come to light and that number is likely to go up. If you know of something that should be on the list, leave a comment or send a tweet to @zombieheadlines

Continueing on the previous posts: Is a “Zombie Virus” Possible and More Real-life Zombie Concerns, it seems necessary to point out a few more examples of how zombies already exist in nature. First on the list is a wasp, Ampulex compressa to be precise, that uses venom and its stinger to control cockroaches.

The wasp slips her stinger through the roach’s exoskeleton and directly into its brain. She apparently use ssensors along the sides of the stinger to guide it through the brain, a bit like a surgeon snaking his way to an appendix with a laparoscope. She continues to probe the roach’s brain until she reaches one particular spot that appears to control the escape reflex. She injects a second venom that influences these neurons in such a way that the escape reflex disappears.

From the outside, the effect is surreal. The wasp does not paralyze the cockroach. In fact, the roach is able to lift up its front legs again and walk. But now it cannot move of its own accord. The wasp takes hold of one of the roach’s antennae and leads it–in the words of Israeli scientists who study Ampulex–like a dog on a leash.

The zombie roach crawls where its master leads, which turns out to be the wasp’s burrow. The roach creeps obediently into the burrow and sits there quietly, while the wasp plugs up the burrow with pebbles. Now the wasp turns to the roach once more and lays an egg on its underside. The roach does not resist. The egg hatches, and the larva chews a hole in the side of the roach. In it goes.

That’s right kids, zombie roaches controlled by wasps. And this is real.

No doubt that is pretty disturbing, but this next example is even more bizarre. A parasitic worm, Euhaplorchis californiensis, is known to infect certain types of fish so that they thrash around on the surface of the water making them more vulnerable to predators and, in turn, more likely to propagate the spread of the parasitic species.

California killifish (Fundulus parvipinnis) infected with the brain-encysting trematode Euhaplorchis californiensis display conspicuous swimming behaviours rendering them more susceptible to predation by avian final hosts. Heavily infected killifish grow and reproduce normally, despite having thousands of cysts inside their braincases. This suggests that E. californiensis affects only specific locomotory behaviours. We hypothesised that changes in the serotonin and dopamine metabolism, essential for controlling locomotion and arousal may underlie this behaviour modification. We employed micropunch dissection and HPLC to analyse monoamine and monoamine metabolite concentrations in the brain regions of uninfected and experimentally infected fish. The parasites exerted density-dependent changes in monoaminergic activity distinct from those exhibited by fish subjected to stress. Specifically, E. californiensis inhibited a normally occurring, stress-induced elevation of serotonergic metabolism in the raphae nuclei. This effect was particularly evident in the experimentally infected fish, whose low-density infections were concentrated on the brainstem. Furthermore, high E. californiensis density was associated with increased dopaminergic activity in the hypothalamus and decreased serotonergic activity in the hippocampus. In conclusion, the altered monoaminergic metabolism may explain behavioural differences leading to increased predation of the infected killifish by their final host predators.

The TL;DNR version is: the worm infects the fishes’ brains and they flop around on the surface so more birds eat them and spread the worm even further. Yes, zombie fish already exist.

Finally, another type of wasp uses a species of caterpillar to act as a host for its developing offspring.

The fun begins when a female Glyptapanteles wasp comes across a potential host–a moth known as Thyrinteina leucocerae. The wasp inserts a stinger-like probe into the caterpillar’s gut body cavity and injects dozens of eggs. The eggs hatch and grow into wasp larvae, which feed on the still-living host as it continues munching on leaves. The caterpillars even moult and pass through three or four stages with the parasites lurking inside them. Finally, when the wasps have finished their living feast, about 80 of them drill escape holes and crawl out of the caterpillar. They move a few inches away, where they spin cocoons on a twig or leaf, where they will develop into adults.

No, you did not read that wrong. The zombie caterpillar continues “living”, albeit in a metamorphosed fashion, after the entire ordeal. Isn’t that pretty much the definition of a zombie?

Stay tuned, this is just getting started and there will be much more to come…

Thanks to all of the people who tweeted and left comments about the post yesterday, Is a “Zombie Virus” Possible? There are a couple of more instances that should be added to the previous examples of what could cause a zombie outbreak. First, from an article published in March of 2011, Discovery News explains how a newly discovered type of parasitic fungus takes control of ants by burrowing in their brains.

The research, led by Assistant Professor David Hughes of the University of Pennsylvannia, identified and described the parasitic fungus Ophiocordyceps unliateralis living on four species of carpenter ant (Camponotini sp.) in the Zona da Mata region of Brazil. Ants become infected when they come into contact with spores released by the fungus. Within a week the ant enters a “zombie-like” state. “This so-called zombie or brain-manipulating fungus alters the behaviors of the ant host, causing it to die in an exposed position, typically clinging onto and biting the adaxial surface of shrub leaves,” the study authors write.

Another important example already affecting humans is African Trypanosomiasis which is transmitted by the bite from a tsetse fly, through contact of contaminated blood, or through sexual contact.

African trypanosomiasis- better known as the African “sleeping sickness”- is a disease that neurologically turns healthy men and women into zombie-like, confused people, and can kill if left untreated.

Just a couple of more things to add to the list of why zombies are real… and should not be ignored. Stay tuned, more to come soon.

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.

Newsweek & The Daily Beast is tracking news of instances that may be the precursor to a zombie apocalypse. Blue pins represent suspicious incidences or infections, while red pins represent acts of strange violence.

Here is a chronology of recent events which may point to a much larger problem.  Does this mean that the much anticipated “Zombie Apocalypse” is upon us?  Maybe and maybe not.  But it certainly should serve as a warning to be alert to the events currently unfolding.

-5/3, but not reported until 5/16: Mad-cow Testing Equipment Nabbed by Thieves
-5/3, but not reported until 5/17: Stolen medical equipment may carry deadly brain disease
-5/4: Atlanta man bitten by rabid bat
-5/4: A man’s illness could have been transmitted by BSE
-5/7, about the same cow as seen on 5/18 and without referencing the above: Atypical BSE Has Never Led To Human vCJD – But Could It?
-5/9: Fox attacked Morganton, Ga., woman, tested positive for rabies
-5/11: Suspected human rabies exposures surge in Palm Beach, FL
-5/14: North Georgia officials warn residents of rabies increase
-5/15: Florida Raccoon Tested Positive for Rabies
-5/15: Hazmat teams blow up mysterious smoking drum in Hollywood, FL
-5/16, : McArthur High School HazMat Situation: Students, Teachers Decontaminated After Breaking Out In Rash
-5/16: Clinical Data Published for a Phase I AADC-deficiency Trial Using a Gene Therapy Manufactured by Florida Biologix
-5/16: Children with rare, incurable brain disease improve after gene therapy
-5/16: Gene Therapy for Brain Disease: Delivering a missing enzyme to the brains of paralyzed children with a rare, life-threatening neurological disease restores movement and builds muscle mass.
-5/17: Polk Co., FL confirms 6th positive rabies case after 2 dogs found with dead raccoon
-5/17: Rabies alert issued in Suwannee County, FL
-5/17, after Taiwanese man (referenced in 5/4) contracts human mad cow disease: Florida Biologix helps Taiwan University Hospital achieve manufacturing objectives
-5/18, in Washington: Review so far shows mad cow case was atypical
-5/19: No confirmation on chemical at Fort Lauderdale International Airport
-5/21: Police: Man bites woman in Westchester
-5/21: 24 people treated after Dalton, GA chemical release
-5/21: Third case of flesh-eating disease diagnosed in Ga.
-5/23: I-285 reopens after hazmat incident
-5/23: Man Bites Cousin’s Nose Off
-5/24: Second Broward school reports mystery rash
-5/25: Hazmat Called After Kids Exposed To Pesticide On Bus: Hazmat, EMS Respond To Lake County, FL School
-5/25: Boynton Beach roads shut down after tanker rollover actively leaking fuel
-5/25: ‘Disoriented’ passenger subdued on flight in Miami
-5/25: Lake in Palm Bay permanently closed to swimmers
-5/26: Naked Man Allegedly Eating Victim’s Face Shot And Killed By Miami Police
-5/26: Florida Doctor Spits Blood at Highway Patrolmen After DUI Arrest
-5/27: Georgia contractor bites Lowe’s employees, resists arrest
-5/27: North Broward boil-water notice in effect through Monday
-5/28: Group urges halt of U.S. beef imports due to ‘L-type’ human mad cow disease