Sunday, February 13, 2005

Weekend Edition: Flesh-Eating Zombies

As part of my final preparations for Sunbelt XXV, I watched a dramatic treatment of infection networks. 28 Days Later is the modern-day story of a "rage" virus that turns victims into white-eyed stomping monsters.



Infection happens through blood and saliva, generally after being bitten by a zombie. Upon being bitten, the victim is zombified within 10 screaming seconds or so, apparently with 100% transmission rate.

I was expecting a lot more flesh-eating in this movie, but I am pleased to report it's classier than that. When all of Great Britain turns zombie but a handful of survivors, even the uninfected start acting crazy.

From a networker's perspective, the rage virus featured in "28 Days Later" does not look so scary. To be a serious world-beater, an infectious pathogen must not only be lethal but also must get around. To do so, it must attach itself to a carrier-host who can then pass it to as many more hosts as possible before death befalls the carrier-host. Knowing this, we can see that the rage virus is entirely too obvious. When a carrier-host becomes a zombie ten seconds after infection, he pretty much gives away his infectious status and enables the uninfected an easy way to tell friend from foe.

Note further that these zombies, being more sick than truly undead, are quite susceptible to bullets, knives, machetes, baseball bats, and other weapons. So you can probably imagine how the uninfected hold on and eventually manage to contain their losses.

When infection networks include carriers who look healthy but are actually spreading ultimately deadly pathogens, then things get really scary.

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