The Medical Side of Zombies at Johns Hopkins

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Ataxic neurodegenerative satiety deficiency syndrome (ANSD) is an airborne virus that causes brain swelling while also decomposing the body and causing an uncanny craving for human flesh. It’s also fictional.  Zombie pop culture is everywhere, but leave it to Johns Hopkins students to be most interested in the medical side of decaying, flesh-hungry monsters. Earlier this fall, the school hosted Harvard professor Steven Schlozman, who has spent a lot of time considering medically plausible zombie apocalypse scenarios.

Schlozman uses the zombie scenario to sneak in some educational lessons about normal neurobiology. “I’ve had people come up to me—young people, one as young as 12—come up to me and tell me that the book made them passionate about neurobiology,” he says.

So if ANSD somehow became real, how should we pre-infected humans react? It’s not so different than you’d expect:  toss cooked chicken to distract the bad guys; speed walk away from zombies, who will be slow because they’re decaying. Also, beware the exploding octopus:  “because since they don’t have skulls to contain their expanding brains, eventually they would just pop. That’s a prime signal that zombies are coming your way,” according to the Johns Hopkins Gazette. Good to know!

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