UCI News

UCI researchers suggest capitalizing on popularity of zombies to raise public health awareness

UC Irvine lecturer/researcher Brandon Brown, Ph.D., and public health grad student Melissa Nasiruddin published a paper in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that explores using zombies to educate the moviegoing masses about re-emerging infectious diseases such as rabies and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

May 14, 2013

Zombies have inspired countless horror films and graphic novels, but the fictional monsters have recently been used for a loftier goal: public health awareness. UC Irvine lecturer/researcher Brandon Brown, Ph.D., and public health grad student Melissa Nasiruddin published a paper (and podcast) in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases that advocates using zombies to educate the moviegoing masses about re-emerging infectious diseases such as rabies and neurological conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. “Rabies isn’t a problem in the United States, but China and Indonesia have recently had outbreaks of the disease,” Nasiruddin said. Rabies and zombiism are both transmitted through bites, and both cause foaming at the mouth. Zombies and people with Parkinson’s disease both experience muscle rigidity, tremors, a shuffling gait and slowness. If conflating public health and zombies sounds familiar, it’s probably because of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention’s successful campaign linking reports of zombie infestations to disaster readiness. “If you can prepare for a fictional zombie apocalypse, you can prepare for the outbreak of any disease or global pandemic,” Brown said. Public health officials could take action by distributing pamphlets and other materials describing the similarities between zombie infestations and other disease outbreaks and how to protect oneself and others; creating satirical or dramatic public service announcements to promote defensive strategies against disease outbreaks; and/or producing interactive games or smartphone apps simulating the natural progression of real epidemics. Graduate students Kyle Chen, Monique Halabi and Alexander Dao also worked on the paper.