Reporting Kathryn Larson
ANN ARBOR (WWJ/AP) - The University of Michigan was literally hungry for brains — as one classroom full students suddenly turned into a wild pack of zombies.
Thirty-one epidemiology graduate students on Tuesday participated in a bizarre, bloody “zombie apocalypse,” all to pass a class on survival preparation. Students could run, but they couldn’t hide from this final exam.
“We got the choice to set up the zombie apocalypse or take an essay test. So, it was definitely the better of the two,” said 24-year-old Paula Miller.
Four times as many students who typically attend Epidemiology 651, “Epidemiology and Public Health Management of Disasters,” were on hand to welcome — or become — the undead. The zombie exercise was modeled after a curriculum designed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and a handful of CDC staffers also participated.
Many let their hair down while others shuffled through it, but all eyes were on Epidemiologist Dr. Eden Wells’ experiment.
“My class has spent the last semester learning about a lot of the tools with a way to measure impacts on communities and to help intervene and make those impacts smaller,” Wells said. “We can’t avoid a lot of the disasters in the world, but we can at least work to prepare people.”
So, why the zombies? “The zombies, not a real hazard, but represents all hazards preparedness,” Wells said.
The biohazard situation meant that the zombies weren’t spreading the virus by biting their victims. Instead, the zombies infected their victims by tagging them with stickers.
“Zombies, you know, their mode of transmission, epidemiological speaking, is by a bite. We don’t want students doing any biting or wrestling, or we didn’t want any weapons or anything. SO, what you’ll see is the students are actually wearing biohazard stickers,” Wells said.
The zombies also put forth a lot of effort into their look, like third year doctoral student Adam Wilk — who wore a bit of eau de zombie all over his face.
“That would be soy sauce, ketchup, chocolate sauce and some red food coloring,” he said.
While Wells was one of the unlucky ones, “I got infected, but it was a lot of fun,” she said the experiment was a complete success and one she hopes these students remember whether they’re playing the dead or trying to stay alive.
“Hopefully they’ll incorporate some of these things, like developing a disaster kit at home. That would be my hope,” she said.
Once the 90-minute exercise concluded, faculty, staff, students and those sporting fake blood and “biohazard” stickers adjourned to a hallway near the main entrance to the building, where the zombies participated in a “flash mob”-style dance to Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”
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