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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – While some New Yorkers are getting ready for a fiery end to the world this Saturday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is doling out some advice on how to prepare for a different type of global destruction: the “zombie apocalypse.”
End of the world talk went into high gear after Robert Fitzpatrick of Staten Island wrote “The Doomsday Code,” and said that on May 21, buildings and bridges will collapse, dams will burst and flames will consume the planet.
However, few have been talking about zombies destroying mankind. “You may laugh now, but when it happens you’ll be happy you read this, and hey, maybe you’ll even learn a thing or two about how to prepare for a real emergency,” wrote Dr. Ali Khan on the emergency preparedness blog of the CDC.
Above the post is a photo of what appears to be a dirty-fingered female zombie. Though the post is a tongue-in-cheek way of reiterating advice about keeping a kit — equipped with water, flashlights, clothes and medication — handy in case of a hurricane, the response to the post has been tremendous.
Khan’s postings usually draw 1,000 to 3,000 hits in a week. This one — posted Monday — got 30,000 within a day. By Friday, it had gotten 963,000 page views and was the top item viewed on the agency’s Web site.
PHOTO GALLERY: Zombies Invade New York City
More important, CDC officials said, it is drawing interest from teens and young adults who otherwise would not have read a federal agency’s guidance on the importance of planning an evacuation route or how much water and what tools to store in case a major storm rolls in.
In the blog, Khan discussed what fiction has said about flesh-eating zombies and the various infectious agents that different movies have fingered as the cause.
Khan specifically referenced the 1968 George A. Romero classic “Night of the Living Dead” and Max Brooks’ essential handy book “The Zombie Survival Guide.”
Khan’s favorite zombie flick is “Resident Evil,” but his interest in unpredictable terrors is driven more by his decades of work tracking real-life infections like Ebola hemorrhagic fever, bird flu and SARS.
The idea evolved from a CDC Twitter session with the public earlier this year about planning for disasters. Activity spiked when dozens of tweets came in from people saying they were concerned about zombies.
A co-worker suggested Khan use a zombie hook to spice up the hurricane message and he went for it.
There have been few comments asking whether this is the best way for the government to spend tax dollars. The agency is under a tight budget review at the moment and facing potentially serious budget cuts. But the zombie post involved no extra time or expenditure, CDC officials said.
“We have a critical message to get out and that is CDC saves lives while saving money. If it takes zombies to help us get that message out, then so be it,” said agency spokesman Tom Skinner.
Whether the message sticks still has to be determined. The agency is planning a follow-up survey to see if people actually did prepare emergency kits or follow Khan’s other advice.
(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)