Cricket bats and containment: Can zombie pop culture be used to improve infection prevention and control practices?
Introduction “The Walking Dead. Scientific name Homo Coprophagus Somnambulus. A deceased human being who has partially returned to life due to undeterminable causes.” The Urban Dictionary. Wikipedia currently lists 383 feature length “A-list” zombie films, released between 1932 and 2014. These films indicate a number of causes of “zombification” including a microbial agent which has not been contained and spreads readily from person to person. Given this situation, it is pertinent to explore how the infection prevention and control (IPC) community can best capitalise upon this pop culture phenomenon. Method A search of feature length films, in English, released from 2000-2014 was conducted. Each film was checked against the public online databases iMDB, Rotten Tomatoes and Wikipedia to identify the cause of the zombie infestation featured in each film. To understand the role and impact of zombie films in pop culture, a search of peer-reviewed journals, published in English, was conducted, with no date limitations. Search terms included “infection control”, “zombie” and “film”. Results On review of the films included on the Wikipedia list, 238 zombie films were released from 2000 to date. Of these 69 films had an infectious cause of some kind (viral, bacterial, parasite, extraterrestrial, zoonotic or other biological cause). For 48 films, the cause is unclear. In the remainder (n=121), zombification has no traceable infectious cause. Preliminary results indicate that pop culture is influenced by global health issues resulting in an increase in the release of infectious biohorror films in the years following outbreaks such as SARS and pandemic influenza. Discussion The use of pop culture to initiate innovation in science is well recognised. Subsequently this can be extrapolated for use in the development and adoption of IPC practice in both public health and acute care settings. Conclusion There are clear indications that contemporary IPC technologies are evident in these films, successful or not. Using contemporary cultural influences allows healthcare workers and the public to contextualise IPC theory and practice in an accessible and memorable way.
Australasian College for Infection Prevention and Control
Medical and Health Sciences