CDC preps for zombies

Courtesy Photo
Courtesy Photo

By Daniel C. Houston
Staff Writer

A federal government agency urged citizens Tuesday to prepare for the possibility of an upcoming zombie apocalypse, hoping such instructions would prove useful for other emergencies even if a zombie threat never materializes.

The brains behind the project belong to officials at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The CDC released a graphic novel Tuesday that played out an apocalyptic storyline in which the characters try to survive a sudden outbreak of a virus whose “symptoms include slow movement, slurred speech and violent tendencies.”

This graphic novel was published as part of a broader zombie initiative that began in May when officials started a blog on the CDC website entitled “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.” The blog was aimed at raising awareness of emergency procedures in a manner that took into account the needs of 14- to 28-year-olds, according to Dave Daigle, associate director for communications for the Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, and one of the three founding members of the Zombie Task Force.

“We feel like if you’re prepared for a zombie apocalypse, you’ll also be prepared for a tornado, flood or hurricane,” Daigle said.

While Houston senior Stephen Cookus thought the graphic novel could bring more attention to emergency preparedness issues, he was skeptical about whether it would actually convince college-age people to take action and prepare for the worst.

“I don’t necessarily think I would [make preparations] based on reading that graphic novel unless there was something particularly shocking in the novel itself that caused me to act upon it,” Cookus said. “While it’s possible that that would raise awareness, I’m not particularly sure it would be effective.”

Because budgetary constraints prevented Daigle from hiring outside artists to illustrate the graphic novel, he had to check the backseat of his own department for artistic talent, double-tapping his art staff for this project as well as the posters and other instructional material on which they typically collaborate.

It should be noted the graphic novel only explicitly provides instructions for how to survive an apocalypse in which the zombies move by lurching forward slowly, leaving unclear whether the recommended procedures would also be appropriate for more fleet-footed zombies as depicted in the 2002 horror film “28 Days Later.”

In the near future, at least, Daigle is not worried about the advent of a zombie pandemic.

He said the recommendations portrayed in the graphic novel such as preparing an emergency kit and keeping extra food and water supplies in the home would be useful in a non-zombie emergency like those the CDC deals with on a more regular basis.

“We have no data or research that leads us to believe a zombie apocalypse is imminent,” Daigle stressed.

The graphic novel is available for free download at http://www.cdc.gov/phpr/zombies_novella.htm.