Be afraid. Be very afraid. At least if you believe in zombies and think they're headed for a city near you.
An infectious disease-tracking computer model at Argonne National Laboratory, usually used to track the likes of Ebola, the flu and MRSA, says Chicago would be overtaken by zombies in 60 days if the undead attacked. The Windy City would have about 2 million zombies roaming the streets while about 500,000 would be dead.
Although the scenario is fictional, “we wanted to do a zombie simulation to educate people about infectious diseases and how computers can contribute to understanding (the) diseases and how they are spread,” said Charles Macal, a senior systems engineer in Argonne's Global Security Sciences division.
ChiSim, established in 2009, is a detailed depiction of Chicago's population. The researchers use census data to establish agents, or individual representations, of the 2.9 million people who live in the city. Other data sources are also used in the model, such as the American Time Use Survey, to determine where people go and how they spend their time.
The zombie experiment is similar to how ChiSim tracks the way flu spreads, Macal said, with an individual being exposed to the flu and then infected. The model can help determine how diseases spread and, in some cases, how they can be stopped, Macal said.
Multiple simulations of the zombie model showed different scenarios where people were able to fend off zombies by using defense tactics. One recommended defense against the brain-eating undead: bombs.
As for fighting less-fantastical threats, Macal said, researchers at Argonne in suburban Chicago found that the spread of MRSA can be stopped when individuals seek care from a provider instead of trying to treat the illness themselves.
“We can continue to apply this computer model to more questions people have about public health and give them information they haven't had before,” Macal said.
And beware the living dead. Just in case.