Disease Z: Epidemiology Perspective of World War Z

Prevention is better than a cure. This single idea is perhaps the most important realization of the 20th century and as the basis for public health measures including hygienic practices, infrastructure, vaccinations, and disease prevention, has likely saved millions of lives. Included in this idea are two main components. First, we are more effective working together. Second, early action is key. In World War Z the Honolulu Conference discusses whether to take an aggressive approach against the zombie outbreak or conserve resources in a stable present state. If we frame the Honolulu Conference as a gathering of epidemiologists rather than as a war council, we can more easily understand how taking immediate action against the epidemic will ultimately yield better long term results for the survival of the human race.

Diseases require very specific, customized preventative responses. Treating the zombie outbreak similar to a human war is completely useless. “There were no logistics lines to sever, no depots to destroy. You couldn’t just surround and starve them out” (Brooks 272). The zombie epidemic is unique and the human response must be custom-tailored for the disease. The zombies cannot be simply outlasted in the short term. Many tactics of warfare prove ineffective in this case, which suggests that the method that must be employed is more similar to a public health program that recognizes the uniqueness of a disease.

There are parallels between war and epidemiology. First strike in both are considered smart and effective strategies to achieve victory. However, the particularities of World War Z fit better with characteristics of many diseases that plague humans today. Cancer, like the zombie outbreak, is a disease in which humanity has had to seriously consider a unique way of tackling the disease. The struggle continues and we must constantly discover new ways to get rid of our zombies to save humanity.

Brooks, Max. World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War. New York: Crown, 2006. Print.


One thought on “Disease Z: Epidemiology Perspective of World War Z

  1. Hi! I agree with you that both prevention and early action are crucial steps in dealing with a public health crisis, but I believe that the infection has spread to too many people for it to be considered in its initial stages. I do think that “immediate action against the epidemic will ultimately yield better long term results for the survival of the human race”; I just think that attacking the zombies is the best way. You’re perspective about the Honolulu Conference as one of epidemiologists and the similarity of war and epidemiology is interesting. You bring up the example of cancer. Cancer, while yes it is a disease, can also be seen as a war enemy. For example, you can target cancer cells with radiation, and certain drugs can halt biological molecules that supply necessary equipment for cancer cells to thrive. This is similar to armies stopping supply chains to the enemy. Perhaps the way to “win” the Zombie War is to employ both a war and epidemiological strategy.


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