Zombie apocalypse? Get your preparedness on!

 I did a double-take when I came across the CDC’s Public Health Matters blog a couple of days ago and saw one of the latest entries: “Social Media: Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocalypse.”

Zombie apocalypse? Seriously? What have those straitlaced public health folks been drinking?

In just two or three days, the blog post has gone viral. Web traffic was so heavy that the CDC’s server crashed. Everyone, it seems, wants to know how to prepare themselves for a zombie invasion.

As it turns out, the CDC isn’t entirely off its rocker. The message may be tongue in cheek but it has a purpose. Ali S. Khan, assistant surgeon general, writes, “You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency.”

Preparations such as: maintaining a home emergency kit stocked with food, water, soap, towels, first-aid supplies, prescription and non-prescription medication, clothing and blankets. You should have a tool kit containing a utility knife, duct tape and a battery-powered radio. And don’t forget important documents such as your driver’s license, passport and/or birth certificate.

OK, your emergency kit is ready. Now what you need is a plan. If zombies invade, which evacuation route will you take to escape the city? Do you have a couple of alternate routes? Have you identified a meeting place where your family can be reunited if you somehow get separated? Do you have a list of emergency contacts?

The CDC even outlines its role in the event of a zombie apoc…  uh, disease outbreak or other public health emergency:

CDC would provide technical assistance to cities, states or international partners dealing with a zombie infestation. This assistance might include consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine). It’s likely that an investigation of this scenario would seek to accomplish several goals: determine the cause of the illness, the source of the infection/virus/toxin, learn how it is transmitted and how readily it is spread, how to break the cycle of transmission and thus prevent further cases, and how patients can best be treated. Not only would scientists be working to identify the cause and cure of the zombie outbreak, but CDC and other federal agencies would send medical teams and first responders to help those in affected areas (I will be volunteering the young nameless disease detectives for the field work.)

Here in Minnesota, the most likely emergency scenarios are weather-related – a tornado, flood or blizzard. I’d also add fire and family medical emergency to the list. And as we’ve seen in recent years, pandemic influenza is a potential public health emergency too.

Local agencies put a lot of work into being prepared, but when it comes right down to it, most individuals will be forced to cope on their own during at least part of an emergency. It’s better to be prepared than to sit waiting for a rescue that might not come, or to place an added strain on resources that should be directed toward those who need them the most.

Zombie apocalypse? I don’t think I’m going to worry about it happening anytime soon but hey – the message got my attention.

Images: Top – West Central Tribune; bottom, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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