No, zombies like the ones seen in The Walking Dead are not real. But a Kent State University associate professor actually published a paper in the British Medical Journal earlier this week that warns us we’re not ready to deal with large-scale epidemics like the ones depicted in movies and on TV.

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While a title like Zombie infections: epidemiology, treatment, and prevention, the study might seem like a joke – and it can be considered one, as the Journal allows unorthodox and funny papers into its Christmas edition. But according to CNET, lead author Tara Smith makes the case that we, as a society, aren’t ready to deal with major epidemics that would change the current landscape in ways similar to what’s portrayed in zombie movies.

“Zombies – also known as walkers, Zed, Zs, biters, geeks, stiffs, roamers, Zeke, ghouls, rotters, Zoms, and runners – have become a dominant part of the medical landscape,” she writes.

Smith looks at the diseases described in some Zombie movies, arguing that “prevention and treatment are largely unexplored” mostly because of the “rapid onset of zombie outbreaks and their society destroying characteristics.”

Smith says that the world needs more cooperation and funding to prepare for a zombie-like disaster in real life – that’s not a zombie attack per se, but any kind of deadly disease that could spread rapidly. Governments will have to accept that “the living dead” need a place in society, Smith adds, to avoid a human-zombie war.

“Risk from infectious diseases is difficult to communicate, because it’s not static, and it’s not equal for each infectious agent,” the doctor told CNET. “Ebola is scary because it’s been hyped in works like ‘The Hot Zone,’ but in reality, it’s not that easy to spread, and when it causes death, it’s not as dramatic as it’s portrayed in that book and in other media.”

Smith went on, “We need a frank discussion of the ethical and potential criminal problems associated with dealing with zombies. Will people be prosecuted for killing a zombie or a person who has been bitten but has not yet ‘turned’? Is mass quarantine of those who have been exposed to a zombie but not bitten legal? How would it be achieved?”

Smith’s work isn’t unique, and even the CDC has preparedness suggestions for a zombie apocalypse – check them out at this link. Meanwhile, we can only hope a zombie outbreak of any kind isn’t imminent in the real world. On TV, The Walking Dead returns in February.

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