CDC zombie apocalypse preparedness guide rises from the dead

Yes, the CDC really does offer survival tips for a zombie pandemic.

Amanda Kooser
Freelance writer Amanda C. Kooser covers gadgets and tech news with a twist for CNET. When not wallowing in weird gear and iPad apps for cats, she can be found tinkering with her 1956 DeSoto.
Amanda Kooser
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This is a clip from the CDC's zombie preparedness graphic novel


You may have noticed the chatter about the US Centers for Disease Control's online zombie preparedness guide. It's risen from internet obscurity to once again haunt the public consciousness, likely due to pandemic fatigue and a goofy alleged Nostradamus prediction. 

The CDC isn't expecting a zombie armageddon in 2021. The guide has been on the government site for years. It's a tongue-in-cheek presentation designed to illustrate real disaster and emergency preparedness tips for a country that was obsessed with The Walking Dead. The last blog entry in the guide dates to 2011. 

An astrology website called Yearly Horoscope may be connected to the resurgence of the CDC guide. It attributes a 2021 zombie apocalypse prediction to French physician Michel de Nostradame. Nostradamus lived in the 1500s and published a series of almanacs that supposedly predicted future events. 

Don't put much stock into anything ascribed to Nostradamus. According to a Google Arts & Culture informational page about the physician's writings, "as there are so many different editions of Nostradamus' publications, there is also no way of knowing if it is an original." For a critical treatment of these "predictions," check out magician and skeptic James Randi's The Mask of Nostradamus.

The CDC guide is full of useful advice beneath the zombie veneer. There's an entire section for educators, including a lesson plan on how to put together an emergency kit with bottled water, non-perishable food, a flashlight and a first-aid kit. 

There's also a fun graphic novel that includes a sequence at the CDC where medical professionals are working on a zombie vaccine. There are some parallels with our current pandemic and virus screenings and vaccine distribution. The novel includes a preparedness checklist.

Zombies have long been fictional stand-ins for other fears, so the timing of the CDC site's reanimation across news and social media isn't surprising as the pandemic continues to impact the world.