Web Extra: Zombie Conspiracy Theories

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CLEVELAND-- Zombies! They’re fictional creatures who’ve returned from the dead to devour your flesh.

But what if it’s not just make-believe?

A growing number of people consider a zombie apocalypse a real possibility.

They don’t suppose that the dead will be re-animated, but they do think that humans could be “zombified.”

“There are so many thoughts and theories about how it could happen whether it’s biological or disease or something like that,” said Steve Ferraro, zombie-enthusiast.

Some of the conspiracy theories are based on actual science.

One of the ways people figure humans could be turned into zombies is from damaging parasites.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “toxoplasmosis is the leading cause of death attributed to foodborne illness in the United States.”

The CDC estimates that 60 million Americans have the parasites inside them already but that their immune systems generally keep it in check.

But what if that changed and what if the parasites began attacking people’s brains?

Some people worry that human DNA is evolving and making us more violent.

Others fear that microscopic robots could be implanted inside our brains.

Another hypothetical scenario involves neurotoxins.

Neurotoxins are poisons which, according to the CDC, can cause a variety of symptoms including, but not limited to, “nerve palsies and paralysis” in people.

Although some victims might appear to be in a trance-like state, they are generally very ill and not aggressive.

However, conspiracy theorists suggest that parasites, neurotoxins and even vaccines could be somehow weaponized and then used against humans.

A variety of pathogens and toxins including cholera and typhus have been used as biological warfare weapons in the past.

“People get caught up in movie magic zombies ripping flesh and eating brains but it could be like a pandemic,” said Ferraro.

Some infectious diseases that scare people include Prion diseases like Mad Cow Disease, also known as Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans.

“There’s really crazy stuff out there,” said Dr. Christine Alexander, MetroHealth Medical Center, and Interim Chair of Family Medicine.

Dr. Alexander said, there are many diseases and viruses which affect the brain and human behavior.

She doesn’t support or believe any of conspiracy theories, but she can’t rule out normal or natural occurring mutations of viruses.

“Viruses are smart and can change very, very, very, quickly and readily to adapt to their environment,” said Dr. Alexander.

Humans have been battling infectious diseases for centuries.

The 1918 flu pandemic claimed 40 million lives worldwide.

Dr. Christine Alexander said, each time researchers overcome a virus, the virus changes and becomes tougher.

The virus that would be most likely to transform people into zombie-like creatures would be the rabies virus, because victims experience hallucinations, biting and become violent.

Currently the virus is under control in most developed countries and it is treatable, but if that virus was to suddenly change and become a pandemic it could be catastrophic for mankind.

“If the rabies virus were to really, really, really mutate so it’s much more contagious, who knows,” said Dr. Alexander.

Again Dr. Alexander said, it’s all “highly unlikely."

However, she does see a correlation between violent acts and some substances.

She said, “There are lots of substances like alcohol and drugs which can really alter a person’s ability to think and think clearly. Those are probably more likely to blame for violent acts than there being a zombie virus out there.”

*See Suzanne's 'creature craze' story*

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