Real Life Zombies
mp3 | wav

real life zombies

We laugh at zombie films but we actually have real life zombies… What are you talking about, Norbert? I’m not talking about human zombies but microbial ones waking after centuries or millennia of being buried in ice. They’re coming to life as global warming melts permafrost in parts of Russia and other once frigid places.

Here’s one example. Smallpox was eradicated in nineteen eighty, but that could change. In Siberia, in the eighteen-nineties, people who died from a smallpox outbreak were buried in the upper layers of the permafrost by necessity. With global warming, those layers on the banks of the Kolyma River are thawing. The river’s floodwaters are eroding this cemetery and eventually the bodies along with the virus will be exposed.

In another example, in August of two thousand sixteen, also in Siberia, a twelve year old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalized after being infected by anthrax. A summer heatwave had thawed permafrost around an anthrax infected reindeer corpse. Early in the twentieth century, more than a million reindeer died of anthrax and were buried in shallow graves in the permafrost among some seven thousand sites around Russia. Anthrax bacteria are capable of forming spores that are extremely hardy and can survive in the permafrost for a century or more.

As the climate warms, these pathogens are reentering our world and like the human zombies in our movies, some pose a real threat.

For more information…

There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up
Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth's climate warms...

Destroying the last samples of smallpox virus could prove short-sighted
The discovery of intact vials of smallpox in a storeroom last week demonstrates the need to maintain samples of the virus in secure facilities for future vaccine research..

World Health Organization Emergency Preparedness, Response: Smallpox Page
Smallpox is an acute contagious disease caused by the variola virus, a member of the orthopoxvirus. It was one of the world's most devastating diseases known to humanity. The last natural case was in Somalia in 1977. It was declased eradicated in 1980 following a global immunization campaign led by the World Health Organization...