Wednesday 31 July 2013

If you gave a virus legs and teeth...

Following on from my post on extreme epidemiology, zombies and World War Z, there is an article today in livescience (yes, it's all in fun).

The article, including some commentary from Prof Robert Smith? (that's an intentional "?"), an expat Aussie mathematician based at the University of Ottawa, and myself, an expat Kiwi. 

Prof Smith even has a book coming out on the if you're a hardcore maths enthusiast and hey, who isn't?... check out and debate this mathematical model from an earlier publication and other equations relating to zombification...

From: Infectious Disease Modelling Research Progress. (2009). Ch4.p133-150 When Zombies Attack!: Mathematical Modelling Of An Outbreak of Zombie Infection. Munz, Hudea, Imad and Smith. Nova Science Publishers Inc
Smith's modelling has real-world applications,  having been useful in understanding human papillomavirus infections  and in getting the next generation of zombie fighters interested in mathematics.

Alternatively, if maths is not your thing, perhaps you are a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist and developing a suit of armour that protects you from zombie bites is more up your alley.

While the topic of zombies may be a bit much for some, the concepts underpinning the spread of a zombie virus are not very different from those due to any virus infection. More extreme, yes, but human virus infections, transmission conundrums and deaths due to real viruses are happening right now all over the world.


  1. Zombie movies generally muck up by failing to have a decent incubation rate. I vaguely remember in the WWZ movie there was a mention of some people earlier in the outbreak “turning” after a long delay…? Hope that was right, because my inner nerd LOVES plot holes like that getting filled with a quick line.

    But if your zombies turn really fast, there’s not much chance they’d get on a plane. 28 Days Later had that problem.

    Bit like SARS: is was SO pathogenic that pretty much everyone had a fever. Easy (relatively) to stomp into the dirt (still, mad props, WHO and friends!). While flu has asymptomatic (but shedding) cases, a nice two-day incubation rate, a bit of transmission in the two days pre-symptoms… Border control is close to useless.

    If I was a super-villain, my virus would be something nice and slow, with shedding over a long period before the symptoms kicked in.

    …hey, why aren’t there any water-zombies? They don’t breath, do they? So couldn’t they sorta lurch across oceans eventually? I wanna see a movie with water-logged zombies coming en-mass up onto a beach. That’d be awesome.

    Also, what courses at uni do I have to do to become a billionaire playboy philanthropist?

  2. Yup - fro minutes down to 12 seconds I think. I think that might have been meant to plays to the virus adapting to its host.

    They seems to do alright getting into the dumb waiter on the plane out of Israel.

    BPP101 I think it is.


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