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Zombies? Scientist says maybe

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: October 25, 2013

It turns out I would do well during a zombie apocalypse.

During a recent newsroom-wide quiz, I ranked No. 7 among 23 of my colleagues in a Zombie Apocalypse Survival Quiz. (I’d like to thank my southeast Oklahoma upbringing)

So here’s the question: How realistic is a zombie apocalypse?

Well, the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation recently answered that question:

With Halloween fast approaching, it seems like zombies are everywhere. Whether you caught the bug from “The Walking Dead” or “World War Z,” it’s hard to steer clear of these shambling, flesh-hungry monsters. And believe it or not, part of the zombie myth is rooted in biomedical science.

“There are quasi-scientific roots to almost all of your classic monsters,” said Dr. Stephen Prescott, OMRF president. “And zombies are no exception.”

In movies, TV and popular fiction, zombies were once people who were transformed by a horribly mutated—and contagious—virus or parasite. “Considering recent scares over both avian and swine flu,” said Prescott, “that might not seem so far-fetched.”

In fact, said Prescott, a disease called African trypanosomiasis, or “sleeping sickness,” shares some traits of a zombie infection. A parasite called Trypanosoma brucei is delivered in the bite of a tsetse fly. After initially causing headache, fever, joint pain and itching, the parasite invades the brain, where it disrupts the sleep cycle and triggers confusion, tremors and paralysis.

You can read the full release here.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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