Lately I have been interested in the concept of a "zombie apocalypse". Can it happen?
The answer is yes and it would be incredibly bad.
The most common "rage" virus is rabies. If rabies became an airborne virus it is possible that the world would suffer a "zombie apocalypse". If the form of rabies is anti-viral resistant we have a huge problem.
Guess what, there are airborne rabies virus already.
The rabies virus can have an incubation period of as long as a year and as short as a week. Incubation is the time between infection and illness. If the airborne rabies virus became more virulent, transmitted more often, and took 6 months to a year to incubate the majority of the world would be infected before people started dying.
People with rabies die within about a week of showing the illness. If the disease were very consistent (and thank God they are not) the entire world (90+%) would probably be infected within a few months. Let us speculate 6 months. I picked six months because it works with a 6 sigma distribution really well.
This isn't a real model, it is a speculative model so don't get your panties in a bunch.
The virus becomes virulent. The first month about 4% of the world is infected and no one is sick. The second month about 16% of the world is infected and no one is sick. The third month about 50% of the world is infected and no one is sick, but, by now some doctors probably know something is wrong. Rabies can't be diagnosed prior to symptoms, there are no infection tests, but, there are some smart cookies out there and I expect a few people would have a clue.
By the end of the fourth month about 85% of the people in the world are infected. More people know something is wrong, but, no one knows exactly what and no one is sure what is going to happen. There is some political debate. By the end of the fifth month about 97% of the world is infected. By the end of the sixth month 100%.
Now everyone is infected and no one is sick. Politicians and doctors go back to working on the stuff that is popular.
Because we are working with a very consistent virus, six months later, one year after the first infections, people start going crazy with rabies. Within a week they die. Maybe the anti-virals work, maybe not. The worst thing is that we have 2-3 months before most of the people in the world, including the people who would manufacture and distribute anti-virals, are dead.
By the end of the 1st month, 4% of the world population is gone. 360,000,000 people are dead. The disease is not random, the people who have the most contact with others die first. People who travel, truck drivers, shipping, airlines, logistics, managers, medical professionals, teachers, children, etc.
By the end of the 2nd month 16% of the people in the world are dead. The disease follows probability of contact with others and now the 16% of the most important people in the logistics of getting a cure out there are gone. The likelihood of combating a world wide disease with those people gone is nil.
By the end of the third month, between the deaths from the virus and the deaths from enraged victims billions are dead. Infected people are hiding and it isn't doing any good. Families are killing each other.
By the end of the fourth month most of humanity is gone. 95%+.
That sounds pretty outrageous, but, it is probably a more likely Armageddon than a flu virus pandemic. Why? because some preparations have been made to combat a flu virus pandemic and no one is making serious preparations for something like an airborne rabies virus pandemic.
We can't prepare for everything. We carry a single spare tire and the odds of having two flats at the same time are minimal. It does happen though, and when it does there isn't anything we can do except deal with the consequences of not having 2 spare tires.
With all the interest in a "zombie apocalypse" I sometimes wonder if the world isn't being somewhat prophetic, if we don't know what is going to happen already in the dark recesses of our minds. Maybe we are heading down a road of self fulfilling prophecy where we are creating the conditions necessary for such a virus to destroy us.
In any case the research was interesting and educational.