But even though "history" is rife with examples of zombie contagion, researchers just can't get the funding they need to prevent a full-blown apocalypse.
"Because of the rapid onset of zombie outbreaks and their society-destroying characteristics, prevention and treatment are largely unexplored," Smith writes. And she points out that a vaccine, even if developed, would hardly be effective with so many anti-vaxxers in the country. "More research in this area is sorely needed," she writes.
"The documented rise of multiple zombie pathogens should be a wake-up call to the international community that we need additional funding and cooperation among scientists and government officials to tackle the looming threat of apocalyptic disease," she concludes. "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?"
"For the sake of humanity we must ensure that such a war does not occur and that we work together as a unified global community to respond quickly to any and all new zombie threats."
Smith is a member of the Zombie Research Society, a group of scholars dedicated to doing real-life research and analysis of zombie lore. While it's clear that Smith is pulling from fictional outbreaks to build her case, talking about the swift and inevitable mayhem of a zombie plague can get you thinking seriously about more realistic diseases.
"We give talks around the country about scientific issues — tied into zombies. It's a way to bring attention to these subjects that otherwise might not seem interesting. In my case, it's infectious disease," Smith told The Post.
Folks might not get riled up by a lecture about flu pandemics, but zombies do the trick.
When asked what real-world infections were most analogous to her fictional zombie trend, Smith suggested that the recent Ebola epidemic showed how woefully unprepared we are for a pandemic.
"Of course, that came out of nowhere, in urbanized areas where it has never been seen before," Smith said. "But we had pretty terrible communications globally — a lot of hype and a lot of misunderstanding. And that was really isolated in just West Africa. If we had something like that but it was globally spread, we'd really be in trouble."
Real-world boogeymen like Ebola really do need more of our attention. And you know what you should really be afraid of? Antibiotic-resistant bacteria. That stuff should terrify you.
If nothing else, I bet you can get through this whole study without getting bored or confused, so it's a great way to learn how scientific publication works. Go learn something.