The last illness. Human zombie virus: a brief introduction

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The last illness. Human zombie virus: a brief introduction
The last illness. Human zombie virus: a brief introduction

Everyone loves zombies. These chilling creatures are popular with both children and adults - they look harmless enough not to be seriously afraid of them, but also scary enough to be scared from the heart. How scary are zombies "in reality"?


The zombie phenomenon is a rather rare case of the appearance of an archetypal character in the framework of modern culture, in contrast to vampires or Baba Yaga (although the very image of Baba Yaga, as experts say, is closely connected with the world of the dead. According to folklorist Varvara Dobrovolskaya, “she (Baba Yaga) can be depicted as a corpse, she is in a hut, which in itself resembles a coffin, she “lies from corner to corner”, “her nose has grown into the ceiling.” In some fairy tales, pieces of rotten flesh can stick out of her body. " - NS). You can only recall the promise of the dark goddess Ishtar from the "Epic of Gilgamesh": "I will pave the way into the depths of the underworld, I will raise the dead to devour the living." However, these reanimated dead did not become frequent characters in fairy tales and legends.

In their current form, “corpses that have been fantastically revived, completely lost control of themselves and their bodies, or obeying someone’s orders” came to us from the beliefs of the peoples of Haiti, which developed already in modern times among the peoples of the Caribbean - in Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica - with their magical practice of voodoo. Like voodoo in general, zombies became the product of a complex mixture of African, Indian and Christian beliefs, and once they got into the millstones of modern mass culture, they continued their evolution.


It is believed that zombies first appeared in English-language literature in the late 1920s in the books of the reporter and author of gothic novels William Seabrook, who spent a lot of time in Haiti and personally attended the rites and ceremonies of voodoo. However, if Haitian zombies are often living people whose behavior is controlled by a sorcerer, in culture they have come to be associated exclusively with the living dead. Most likely, the credit for this belongs to the famous Italian-American director George Romero, the author of such cult films about zombies as "Dawn of the Dead" and "Night of the Living Dead".

However, Romero's dumb, slow, and clumsy zombies didn't stay that way for long. The director's followers do not always adhere to the canon picture, and in many modern films, the revived dead are distinguished by exceptional ingenuity and cunning, and sometimes fantastic speed and strength. And the place of magic, capable of raising the dead from the grave and giving him the will to move and kill, was taken by science.


Most modern authors agree that something infectious turns a person into a zombie, a kind of virus that is transmitted, according to some information, only by the bite of a "sick person" or with a piece of his flesh, and according to others - directly through the air. Is such a virus, the "human zombie virus" (HPV), really possible?

The revived dead also figure in Scandinavian folklore - they are turned into berserkers who died "incorrectly", not in battle. The body of such a character, the draugra, increases in size, the skin becomes cadaverous, and the appetite is so unbridled that it often forces them to engage in cannibalism. Draugras usually guard the mounds, but they are also able to get out closer to people, sometimes even attacking them in the dwelling. Another northern analogue of zombies is the nachcerers, the dead who devour their own bodies. They do not rush at people.

Zombie frenzy

Arguing on this topic (we emphasize: purely speculative, since not a single normal person seriously believes in the reality of HPV existence), experts pay attention to such a well-known and dangerous disease as rabies. The parallels between HPV and rabies virus are strikingly high.

University of Maryland professor Jonathan Dinman argues: “I think HPV practically exists - and this is rabies. Firstly, this infection has almost 100 percent mortality, that is, after infection, you literally become a walking dead person. Second, it "reprograms" your behavior, forcing you to attack and bite other people, spreading the disease."

Even the symptoms of rabies are similar to HPV. Patients experience the strongest, unbearable anxiety, hallucinate, have difficulty controlling their own body, overexcited. From the mouth of the poor fellows saliva flows, even a fear of hydration develops - just like the "real" zombies from the popular anime series "School of the Dead".

"Think of the movie I Am Legend," adds epidemiologist Samantha Price, "and zombies can't stand bright light or water in it, just like people with rabies." Like the rabies virus, HPV is transmitted with the body fluids of an infected person, including through bites, which are generously distributed by the "patient" due to increased aggressiveness.

However, in order for an HPV outbreak to develop into a full-fledged epidemic, it must not be as dangerous as rabies. The real infection is too fatal, it kills its carriers faster than it can spread through the population. Before rabies turns into HPV, the virus will have to mutate.


A real HPV should not so much kill an infected person as "take control" over his brain and behavior, forcing him to hunt for people and spread the virus further with all his might. In other words, the main form of infection should not become acute, like in real rabies or the notorious Ebola fever, but chronic, like in herpes, which can coexist with you all your life.

Therefore, the metabolism of the body must be left intact, allowing the body as a whole to function normally in order to produce all new viral particles. And for the most effective dissemination, it will be useful to control the emotions and behavior of the patient. The inability to think calmly and rationally is the best environment for the spread of any "infection", be it a real illness or virtual battles on the Internet.

Conspiracy and the centaur virus

In the summer of 2012, two homeless people fought at the Miami airport, one of whom literally bit the enemy to death. To stop him, the police had to shoot an overly aggressive citizen - and this incident led to a completely "viral" spread of stories about the mysterious virus LPQ-79.

According to the conspiracy theorists, LPQ-79 was the product of a secret development of a virus capable of taking control of human behavior - more precisely, "Lysergic Quinine Protein". The alleged accidental leak of LPQ-79 samples transported through the airport resulted in the infection of a homeless person.

Officials have denied this completely Hollywood story numerous times, pointing out that Eugene Rudy - an identified homeless person - was under the influence of heavy synthetic drugs. However, conspiracy theorists never react to such statements, and the search query "LPQ-79" is still one of the most popular on the website of the American organization of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Meanwhile, neither the mythical LPQ-79, nor the very real rabies are clearly not suitable for the role of a full-fledged VZCH. The former does not really exist, the other must change too much in order to become a "zombie agent".So much so that this is beyond the power of modern science, even if some secret evil genius is armed with it. But what if the rabies virus can mutate itself? “Mother Nature is a serial killer, in this no one can compare with her inventiveness,” says one of the heroes of the zombie movie “War of the Worlds Z”.

However, this is also unlikely. Samita Andreansky, a virologist at the University of Miami, says: “Of course, you can imagine a scenario in which a rabies virus will receive genes of some kind of influenza that will enable it to spread by airborne droplets, plus genes for measles virus or true encephalitis that can change personality and behavior, plus Ebola genes that make you bleed spectacularly … But nature doesn't like such chimeras. " Just as it is impossible to get a winged horse or centaur with human and equine bodies at the same time, such a virus is simply impossible. Mother Nature may be cruel, but not insane.

According to the US Federal Agency for Zombies and Vampires (an organization not entirely serious, but popular), the disease caused by HPV proceeds in three stages, without a long incubation period. At the first stage, the main symptoms of "zombism" quickly appear - headache and fever, thirst and tachycardia. On the second, something like a catatonic coma occurs: the infected person develops deep brain damage. Finally, in the third stage, he "rises from the dead", finally turning into a zombie. The patient reacts poorly to external stimuli, although he is extremely sensitive to some of them, his sense of smell is exacerbated, there is a loss of control and the highest aggressiveness.

Salvation plan

All this, however, does not prevent people (including quite serious scientists) from having fun with their hearts, considering the "zombie apocalypse" as a funny topic for quite serious reasoning and interesting speculations. These issues, in particular, are addressed by such non-profit organizations as the Zombie Research Foundation or the Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency.

More recently, scientists from Cornell University, led by Alexi Alemi, were able to study the epidemiology of HPV: they compiled a mathematical model of the spread of a fictional zombie virus, which took into account modern ideas about this disease and the spread of diseases in general. Despite all the frivolity of this work, its results were reported at the meeting of the American Physical Society on March 5, 2015.

Indeed, this approach looks especially attractive for teaching epidemiological modeling to students - and for working out a number of completely realistic scenarios. For example, this study by specialists from the Alexi Alemi group was based on one of the SIR models accepted in science, plus real demographic data for the United States. Within the framework of the model, they divided the entire territory of the country into sections, cells filled with one or another number of people in accordance with open information on the population for 2010. “Our approach is reminiscent of modeling chemical reactions,” the scientists explained. "We use four states:" healthy "," infected "," zombie "and" dead zombie ", with the possibility of one-way transition between them."

In the SIR model, different groups of the population are considered as “under threat” (susceptible), “infected” (infected) or “recovering” - of course, with certain amendments. “In the case of a real illness, you either recover or die,” explains Alemi Alemi. "Zombies don't get well: the only way to get rid of a zombie is to kill it." Therefore, the SIR model became SID: each person can go through the stages of "healthy", "infected zombie" and "dead zombie".


According to scientists, this "small" amendment fundamentally changes the course of the epidemic, which begins to be completely determined by the ratio of two parameters: the number of "zombifying" bites, on the one hand, and the number of "zombicidal" killings, on the other. In other words, the ratio of the effectiveness of the attacks of people and the living dead opposing them.

To appreciate this attitude, the authors had to study modern films such as the iconic "Zombie Called Sean". They found that, as a rule, it is about 0.8: zombies, on average, inflict 20% more bites than humans - fatal blows and shots. With such an attitude, the chances of humanity, of course, are small. However, the model allowed this parameter to be varied by considering different options. And with a more favorable attitude of bites to acts of "zombicide", the picture of "apocalypse" is not so catastrophic at all.

Modeling has shown that the exact location of the outbreak does not matter much. Densely populated areas can be mowed down by VZCH within about a month (no wonder one of the zombie movies is called: "28 days later"). Moreover, such megacities as New York die in just a day. However, in some remote areas, the disease may not appear even many months after the onset of infection. This is very different from the picture we are used to in cinematography, for which the "zombie apocalypse" begins immediately everywhere and simultaneously. Even the Pentagon has a plan of action in the event of a "zombie apocalypse". Despite all the strangeness of this fact, the existence of the document was officially confirmed the year before last.

The plan, code CONOP 8888, is publicly available and, according to the US military, "includes guidelines for the joint US military command to develop a comprehensive emergency scenario to protect civilians from the zombie horde." However, the American military is not so naive, and, of course, the option of confronting the revived dead is not seriously considered. It's just that this is one of the hypothetical scenarios for the development of events, which allows you to think through and calculate various real situations to counter the armies of armed insurgents inside the country, from the stage of containment and interception of the initiative - and to the restoration of civilian power.

Zombicide rules

One of the bestsellers in the book market in 2003 was Max Brooks' Guide to Survival Among the Zombies. It - half-jokingly, half-seriously - tells about the different sides of the phenomenon of the "zombie apocalypse" and gives useful advice on how to protect yourself from the rebellious dead and fight them. Here are some of the most important ones.

1. Have everything you need ready: water, food, medicine, flashlights, batteries, matches, etc.

2. Stay away from buildings and generally confined spaces - they can become a trap.

3. Hit and shoot without fear, without regret, without hesitation - right in the head. Remember: they are already dead.

4. Firearms are more effective, but cold ones do not run out of charge.

5. Keep a walkie-talkie handy in case of emergency communications - you may receive a signal for a safe haven.

6. Avoid getting blood in mouth and skin, and beware of scratches and bites.

7. Farther from the city - farther from the problems.

8. Choose a more reliable car, best of all - a cash-in-transit armored car. And stock up on gasoline!

9. Try to spend the night in an open area, choose hills that provide additional visibility.

10. Be invisible and be on the lookout! Avoid shooting and light as much as possible. During the "zombie apocalypse" there are no places that are completely safe, there are only less dangerous ones.

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