Best Way to Avoid a 'Zombie' Anthrax Outbreak: Keep Your Reindeer Fully Frozen

There go my vacation plans.

A heatwave that hit Siberia this summer may have unleashed a horde of long-frozen bacteria that now threatens the entire region. An outbreak of anthrax in western Siberia has claimed the lives of 1,500 reindeer since July 24, and 40 Yamal nomads, including four children, have been hospitalized. Some reports say that a 12-year-old boy has died.

Within days, the anthrax decimated local reindeer populations, and tens of members of the indigenous Nenet community have been relocated. The local governor has declared a state of emergency, and some of the herders are facing quarantines that may last until September, according to NBC News.

Denoting this as a “zombie outbreak” may sound a bit strange, but this is arguably the best way of describing what’s happening right now in western Siberia. Back in 1941, an earlier outbreak of anthrax hit the area, and plenty of reindeer back then were felled by it. One of these unfortunate ruminants collapsed into the tundra for the very last time, and was partly preserved thanks to the frigid local conditions.

For 75 years, this frozen carcass remained untouched and undisturbed. However, this summer, an unusual heatwave hit the tundra, raising temperatures up to 5.6°C (10°F) above normal – perhaps a symptom of man-made climate change. This was enough to thaw out the dead reindeer, and the long-dormant bacteria within it awoke from their slumber. Hence, the so-called zombie outbreak has begun.

Just when you thought you’d covered all of the bases for weird things to worry about in the world, reanimated anthrax delivered via 75 year old reindeer funk shows up.

Don’t tell the Rio Olympic Organizing Committee, they’ll find a way to import the stuff just to distract from Zika.

The reporting on this sticks to the rules of climate change propaganda, which state that anything having to do with an uptick in temperature is definitely a sign of the apocalypse, but unseasonably cold temperatures are just, you know, weather. Notice the use of “perhaps” in the speculation. Climate change stories generally feature more qualifying words than a friend’s description of someone they’re trying to get you to go on a blind date with.

Anyway, the big takeaway here is that if you have frozen reindeer lying about, please make sure they stay frozen (Are you listening, my Arizona people?). Fewer questions to answer that way.

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