Researchers have modeled how a zombie outbreak would spread across the US.
Big cities would be particularly dangerous places to be at the start; isolated regions in the mountains would be relatively safe.
These sorts of models are the same ones that researchers use to understand real diseases.
If — or when — the zombie apocalypse comes, those of us in big cities are in trouble, according to research presented at the American Physical Society March meeting on March 5, 2015.
Starting in a big city like New York or Atlanta means you are basically screwed from the start in the event of a zombie epidemic there, according to Alex Alemi, a graduate student at Cornell University who was part of the research team.
You are much better off starting farther away from people, they say, which gives you a better chance of avoiding infection. Ideally, you'd escape to an almost empty region like the Rocky Mountains.
"I'd love to see a fictional account where most of New York City falls in a day, but upstate New York has a month or so to prepare," Alemi said in the APS press release.
Authentic disease modeling
Alemi and colleagues used standard disease models to estimate the zombie infection rate around the US, assuming humans would need to be infected by a zombie bite (of course). Also following standard protocol, zombies travel only by walking and wouldn't die naturally but would need to be "killed," presumably with a well-placed blow to the head.
Essentially, they used a realistic model that's very similar to the way epidemiologists calculate the spread of other viruses, but using fictional parameters unique to zombies. They did make some assumptions, including a transportation infrastructure collapse. It's hard to imagine airports staying operational for long in such a scenario.
The Rockies are the safest place to be in this fictional scenario — sparsely populated and difficult to reach.
And big population centers are the worst place to start the outbreak. About 28 days later (coincidence?), they become safer as the areas that surround them become more dangerous.
Though of course, as Terrence McCoy pointed out at The Washington Post, if a large percentage of the population flooded any area, the risk of infection there would skyrocket.
The statistical research was inspired by a reading of Max Brooks' "World War Z," a book that is better than the movie that was based on it.