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CDC Prepares Us For Zombie Apocalypse

May 20, 2011

Is the US government expecting an outbreak of undead shuffling across the landscape and eat our brains? The doctors of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have released a statement outlining how to prepare for just such an invasion.

Protecting the public from outbreaks of flu, malaria and other mass dangers is serious business and the CDC treats it as such. Unfortunately, teaching the public how to prepare for the worst is not always the most compelling information to convey.

So when the CDC warned people this week about how to prepare for a zombie apocalypse, the world took notice. “That’s right, I said z-o-m-b-i-e a-p-o-c-a-l-y-p-s-e,” Dr. Ali S. Khan wrote on the CDC website this week, adding casually that “Resident Evil” is his “personal favorite” zombie movie.

As one of the nation’s top-ranking public health professionals, Dr. Khan, (also rear admiral and an assistant surgeon general), realized that getting peoples attention was important in preparing for any pandemic, ABC News is reporting. He and his team realized that the preparations for a zombie attack, as portrayed in popular films, was similar to what should be done in real life for other disasters.

“So what do you need to do before zombies…or hurricanes or pandemics for example, actually happen? First of all, you should have an emergency kit in your house,” Dr. Khan wrote.

Have a utility knife, duct tape and battery-powered radio handy, along with some changes of clothes and bedding. Keep cleaning supplies handy, along with key personal documents like a driver’s license and birth certificate.

The CDC also recommends having basic first aid supplies handy for a hurricane or a pandemic — although, Khan admits on the CDC blog, “you’re a goner if a zombie bites you.”

While the zombie stuff may be tongue-in-cheek, the overall message is serious: It’s critical to be ready for real disasters — from storms to diseases to terrorist attacks. The problem, experts say, is that no matter how many earthquakes, floods or other disasters happen, people still don’t make an effort to prepare for them.

“Numerous studies have shown that uptake of preparedness messages has been minimal,” Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in New York, told ABC News. “We haven’t gotten much above 10 of 15 percent of the public being aware of the need for preparedness.”

Day-to-day challenges make it difficult for people to focus on long-term preparedness. The readiness message is especially important, experts say, in light of federal budget cuts that slashed more than $100 million from public health preparedness programs when more resources are needed.

Vulnerable populations, including children, the elderly and the chronically ill could suffer worse than others without the means to help them. “Tremendous resources have to go to attempt to help these populations cope with the challenges of a disaster,” said Redlener.

With local health departments being squeezed financially, anything that will help people take a more proactive approach to disaster readiness can help. “The “ËœZombie Apocalypse’ scenario is a great way of getting information out so people can understand the need for preparedness,” Robert Pestronk, executive director of National Association of County and City Health Officials (NACCHO), an organization that represents more than 2,800 local health departments, told ABC News.

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