After seeing an outbreak play out in everything from Night of the Living Dead to Zombieland, you’d think we’d be at least somewhat prepared for the undead to rise up and start chomping on our brains. Well, you’d be wrong.
Kent State University epidemiologist Tara Smith has published a legit biological study on the concept of a zombie outbreak, and her conclusions find we'd be extremely unprepared if the dead were to start rising. The study looks to zombie lore and popular media interpretations as a touchstone, and it’s actually quite interesting to see it all put through the spectrum of hard (well, as hard as this topic can be) science.
As Gizmodo notes, the study looks at how easily transmission can occur (a bite, or by insects/weaponized bacteria), and the obvious symptoms of being a zombie (shambling gait, loss of dexterity, loss of speech, guttural growling, necrotic flesh, jaundice, recklessness). So what if you are infected? Treatment is tough, as the virus typically spreads quickly, but your best bet is immediate amputation of the affected area. A vaccine is also doubtful, because the government typically can’t mobilize quickly enough to develop one before all hell breaks loose.
But all is not lost! The study also looks at the best way to avoid infection. Not surprisingly, Rule No. 1 is to stay away from all other humans and get out of the city. Fast. Avoid cars and public transportation, and head for high ground (literally) and freezing areas, since (at least in most interpretations) the undead don’t hold up well in the cold. Just, you know, make sure to pack warmly.