Friday, August 9, 2013

Zombies and Viruses

This week's research focused on viruses.  I had the chance to visit the Wyoming State Vet Lab and speak with Dr. Donal O'Toole.  It was awesome.  I got to go on a tour of the facility and see the different labs and the necropsy room.  They weren't doing a necropsy at the time, but still.

There are three different labs, each equipped with different protocols that depend on the seriousness of the infection.  The highest is a level 3, and that's when the scientists have to put on their white suits and have breathers. The room is set up with its own ventilation system and has a cremator for when they are done with the specimen.

I also got to see some slides with viruses on them.  One was distemper in the brain of a puppy and the other was an unknown species from a deer.  Like I said, it was awesome.  So what did I learn?

Well, first and foremost, this was a vet lab, so they dealt only with infected animals.  The fact that I'm in Wyoming meant they dealt with mainly ranch animals, such as cows and horses, but they also look at elk, deer, antelope, coyotes, etc., pretty much anything that's infected.  While that may not seem applicable to zombies, it is.  According to Dr. O'Toole, approximately 60% of new virus infections we have now originated in an animal and crossed over.  There are tons of animal viruses out there that aren't classified because scientists don't have the money or time to categorize them.  Mainly it's a money issue.  Until they cross over to humans, no one has a chance to study them.

In the case of zombies, who's to say a virus can't start in an animal, mutate, and infect humans?  It happens all the time.  Not the zombies, the cross infection.  It was a real eye opening experience that gave me a lot of useful information and sparked some story ideas!

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