2nd zombie paper rises from dead

By Paul Jay, CBCNews.ca. A group of University of Ottawa researchers who wrote about an outbreak of zombie-ism earned the unique distinction of publishing the first paper modelling a fictional disease. But as it turns out, they aren't the only Canadian mathematicians to consider "the zombie problem."

Looking for comment from researchers in the field of disease modelling, I called Troy Day, an associate professor at Queen's University and the holder of a Canada Research Chair in mathematics and biology.

Day, who read the study with interest, said the work of professor Robert Smith? and his students did provide a set of general principles one could use in real-life to model the spread of an infection.

And, perhaps because great minds think alike, it turns out he and a graduate student, Mike Delorme, whipped up their own paper a few years ago.

The unpublished paper entitled, The efficacy of vaccination for the eradication of rage-virus mediated zombieism, looked at the more fleet-of-foot zombies seen in the film 28 Days Later, rather than the plodding zombies the Ottawa researchers studied. And they focused instead on vaccinating against the "disease."

The findings, however, were spookily similar.

"A vaccine can never eradicate the disease if its effectiveness is less than approximately 0.09 (i.e., the vaccine must reduce transmission by at least 91%). Furthermore, even for highly effective vaccines... the vaccination coverage required for eradication is unrealistically high. Consequently, other control measures, such as the slaughter/incineration of infected individuals... are likely to provide a better approach."

There are two important lessons here.

One, zombies, if they were to ever make the leap from fiction to reality, pose all kinds of problems for mankind. And two, mathematicians have a wicked sense of humour.