In case of zombie apocalypse, check with the CDC

Christine Junge

Former Editor, Harvard Health Publishing

Do you know how to protect yourself and your family during a zombie attack? If not, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) can help. In addition to information on how to prepare for emergencies from anthrax to wildfires, the CDC Web site has added a page on dealing with a zombie apocalypse. “That’s right, I said, z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e,” wrote Dr. Ali S. Khan, the Director of the CDC’s Public Health Preparedness and Response division.

I thought the posting was in response to the buzz about the Judgment Day/End of the World that an evangelical radio broadcaster has predicted for tomorrow, May 21. But Dave Daigle, the Associate Director for Communications at the preparedness and response division explained it had less to do with the Rapture and more to do with Twitter and getting out the message about preparing for real emergencies.

The posting has been so popular—more than 30,000 hits in three days—that it crashed the CDC’s servers. “It has been insane,” he said.

Despite the popularity of the zombie post, Daigle and Dr. Kahn don’t have plans for any other similar posts in the near future. What they really hope is that the publicity stunt will turn on a new generation—the 14 to 28 year olds who live on Twitter, as Daigle described them—to preparing for the emergencies that could actually strike their neighborhoods. “Once the dust settles, we want to do some surveys to see if this affected behavior. Did more people become prepared because of it?” Daigle said.

I hope so, both for the good of public health everywhere and for the possibility of more entertaining blog posts from the CDC. As a friend pointed out to me on Facebook, there’s something wonderfully ironic about seeing the words “Your online source for credible health information” above an article that says, “If zombies did start roaming the streets, CDC would conduct an investigation much like any other disease outbreak.”


  1. Carl Plumer

    Nice article. You know, the CDC took a lot of heat for their zombie post(s), but I (and many others) think it was brilliant! Thanks for spreading the word. Those guys took a chance and the world stood up and noticed. Plus, it was just plain old fun to read BECAUSE it was the CDC.

  2. Josh Leach

    Zombies are cool.

  3. Hal Marchand, Ph.D.

    Psychological and social education for significant local or larger scale terror, acccidental or weather related events can prove valuable, especially providing potentially at risk populations with opportunities to rehearse for those real or imagined zombie level losses.

    Unfortunately, there are no rehearsal trainings for losses of loved ones on Interstate 95 as a result of auto crashes in the DC to NY region. There are more losses of life on I-95 and other major highways each day than all the terror or natural disaster events combined.

    Research and practice on “sudden loss” and “vicarious loss” indicate that rehearsal for a variety of unforseen losses may aid in helping us adjust to significant catastrophes regardless of their scope. Writing (journaling) or discussing how individual and large scale losses can help to imbed responses that put us on the road to protective actions more rapidly.

    The Resiliency projects conducted in NY and the DC metro area were positive steps in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.
    Rehearsal is as realistic as estate planning or preventive health care.

    Hal Marchand, Ph.D.

  4. DonaldKiefer

    I bet this information is better than the talk about rapture! But then again we all have our own stand on this. But preparing for what is to come with such disasters is very helpful since we will never know when this will be coming. [URL removed by moderator]

  5. Christine Junge
    Christine Junge

    Part of the CDC’s job is to get American’s prepared for natural disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes. So I don’t think you have to be worried on them trying to do their jobs in new and funny ways.

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