Can a Zombie Apocalypse Really Happen?

The Walking Dead, Fear the Walking Dead, 28 days, the list of shows about a zombie apocalypse seems to be endless. If you’re a fan of any of the “zombie” focused shows that have become popular in the last decade or so, you may have found yourself wondering a zombie apocalypse is possible. Part of the fun of watching these fictional shows is the knowledge that something like that isn’t very likely in the real world.

Or is it? Are we simply fooling ourselves into thinking that we are safe from catatonic walking bodies, bent on attacking other humans? Could something similar to a “zombie apocalypse” really happen in the future? What kinds of event or events might bring about this type of chaos?


Mass Illness and Disease Could Cause a Zombie Apocalypse

There are in fact some illnesses that can actually alter the actions and movements of its host. A behavior altering virus or illness is one that impacts the nervous system causing symptoms such as involuntary muscle spasms, anxiety, paralysis, pupil dilation, confusion, hallucinations, and more.

An infection from something such as rabies could also include increased rage and aggression. We’ve all seen depictions of a rabid animal and we already know rabies can wreak havoc on the human body which is why victims of an animal bite must subject themselves to rabies shots, to prevent the possibility of infection.

But what if a mass outbreak of rabies in humans occurred? If health officials were unable to round up victims quickly enough to get them the shots and prevent infection, it could spread quickly. It just might look like a zombie apocalypse if enough humans fell victim to the rabies infection.

Another disease that could cause a type of zombie apocalypse is Mad Cow disease. We already know Mad Cow disease can infect humans. Seriously, it can happen. Google Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease. Symptoms include poor coordination , impaired movement (falling and stumbling), muscle twitching, delirium, and seizures.

Sure sounds like a zombie to me. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is pretty rare as far as we know and people wouldn’t be dead and revived like movie zombies, but the possibility of this disease morphing and being spread through biting is most likely.

Scientific Manipulation Could Trigger a Zombie Apocalypse

Scientific manipulation such as one study done on mice which focused on the amygdala, the section of the brain responsible for emotional and fear responses in addition to motor controls for predatory capturing and killing.

Boston University neuropathologist, Peter Cummings, explored this possibility and Kluver-Bucy syndrome, in his book Neuropathology of Zombies. Kluver-Bucy syndrome causes humans to do a wide range of strange things and can trigger violence even while the victim is in a catatonic state.

Though most scientists have good intentions, we all know there are those few scientists out there who either inadvertently or in some cases, intentionally, can take scientific manipulation too far. So scientific manipulation could in fact trigger something like a zombie apocalypse.

Can an Apocalypse Happen Due to Parasitic Infection?

Behavior altering parasites, like the thorny-headed worm or lancet liver fluke, are another way that a zombie apocalypse could really happen. These are parasites that take over the host body and compel it to do something that inevitably helps the parasite to continue its own lifecycle.

Another parasite, the hairworm, for example can infect a grasshopper and compel it to jump into water, where the grasshopper dies, but the parasite is able to continue its lifecycle. Although most of these parasites cannot infect humans, there is one that can, Toxoplasma gondii. This parasite is typically found in small birds and rats, and has been known to alter animal behavior.

Toxoplasma gondii causes its host to run toward predators rather than run away from them. So, an infected rat, for example, would run to a cat and be eaten by it, which lets the parasite continue its lifecycle in the feces of the cat. Humans can be infected by this parasite although it’s currently unclear as to what the impact is on humans.

Can a Zombie Apocalypse Happen Due to Neurotoxins?

Believe it or not, this one is something that is the most likely, simply because it has already happened in places like Haiti, one of the origins for “zombie” as a description anyhow. Victims of certain neurotoxins, such as from the Japanese blowfish, suffer from inhibited bodily processes.

The poison from these neurotoxins can make it seem like someone is actually dead. Victims of this neurotoxin can be brought back using drugs or chemicals like alkaloids or datura stramonium.

But, the kicker is, the victim is left with no memory. They can still do regular human things, like sleep, eat, shuffle around, or moan, but they are basically the definition of “zombies”.

There was at least one actual case where a native Haitian was believed dead and was buried in 1962. Eighteen years after he was buried, he was found wandering the village. Apparently, village voodoo priests were routinely using natural chemicals to turn people into zombies so they had laborers for the sugar plantations.

The only comfort in this possible cause for a zombie apocalypse is that zombies resulting from neurotoxins would not be interested in eating other humans or attacking them. At least we hope not.

Neurogenesis Could Lead to a Zombie Apocalypse

You’ve certainly heard about stem cell research, something scientists and medical professionals have been doing for quite some time now. Sure they are focused on using stem cells to regenerate vital organs like kidneys, liver, or the human heart.

But stem cells could also be used to regenerate dead brain tissue. It’s been used on coma patients to get them to wake up and walk again. But the current problem with reanimation is that the regenerated brain dies from the outside in. So the human part, the cortex, dies first. This leaves just the brainstem which keeps your bodily functions active.

When you combine neurogenesis with suspended animation of dead bodies while awaiting future medical breakthroughs, you can see where a zombie apocalypse could actually occur.

Could Nanobots Cause a Zombie Apocalypse?

Progress is a pretty wonderous thing normally. In fact, self-replicating nanobots are predicted to one day be used for a host of medical purposes, including monitoring your health from within, repairing damaged bones, and even fighting infection.

But when it comes to something like nanotechnology, some of the possibilities are actually frightening. Nano-cyborgs, created by scientists, are predicted to be used within ten short years, to replace damaged neural connections in your brain.

Keep in mind, cyborgs can continue operating even after the host dies. This means the potential is there for nanobots to be creating neural pathways in your brain, to keep your body moving, even after you die.

As if that’s not scary enough, nanobots are designed to self-replicate which means they are basically programmed to find a new host prior to their current one decaying. This means the nanobots, now in control of the host body, could cause it to bite a new host, which they would then take over and so on.

Now with some of these, wondering whether a zombie apocalypse can really happen might be a bit of an exaggeration or a stretch. Those of us who prep know that the more likely type of “zombie” apocalypse will be from hordes of desperate people who didn’t take time to prepare for an economic collapse or some other type of SHTF event.

These people will be so desperate for food, water, and other supplies that they won’t be rational. Your only choice if confronted with groups of these desperate people will be to be prepared to fight back or to flee with whatever supplies you can carry.

We’ve put together a guide to survive a zombie apocalypse for those who want more information. But for just about any type of zombie outbreak, whatever the cause, there are some general things you can do to ramp up your chances of survival.

  • Prepare by stockpiling food and other supplies including medical and sanitation supplies to help you survive if public utilities and other systems shut down.
  • Viruses, parasites, and other illnesses can spread rapidly in densely populated areas. Live in a more remote location rather than a crowded urban area or at least have a solid bug out plan with a prepared retreat location in a remote area.
  • Identify family members, friends, and neighbors who are like-minded and form a mutual assistance group that is committed to working together to survive.

Are you prepared for a potential zombie apocalypse regardless of how it comes about? What plans are you making or have you made to get prepared?

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1 thought on “Can a Zombie Apocalypse Really Happen?”

  1. I enjoyed the first several seasons of “The Walking Dead” because it focused on how people came together to deal with an Apocalyptic-scale event. (The series has become long in the tooth now, with too many established characters disappearing, and with plot lines being used that are less than satisfying.) I consider the idea of Zombies as they are depicted on the series to be absurd, but, hey, I accept dragons in GOT, too, so the suspension of disbelief is required.

    The problem with “The Walking Dead” is that Zombies never seem to decompose enough not to be threats, even after, what?, eight years? And why does their awful odor not reveal their presence? Are the normal people suffering from massive sinus congestion?

    Movies like “28 Days Later” appear to be more realistic regarding the potential outbreak of Zombie-like diseases. The “Zombies” in “28 Days Later” are not dead. They are merely infected, they appear to be rabid, and they can run fast. I have read that rabies is the most deadly disease in the world. Once a symptom develops, it is too late to administer medical treatment. I also read that if rabies ever mutated and became airborne, it would mean the end of civilization because people would have to maintain serious distances from each other in order to avoid infection.

    If that situation ever occurred, we would believe that the characters on “The Walking Dead” got off easy.

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