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By Andrea Peyser
October 13, 2014

The Department of Defense is prepared for a zombie attack

It’s a question that keeps fans of flesh-eating ghouls up at night: Are zombies, the brain-munchers who populate a million nightmares, movies and TV shows, the stuff of myth?

Or are the livers and kidneys of random individuals about to become midnight snacks for a horde of undead cannibals?

The US Department of Defense has spoken. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has weighed in on an issue bound to drive owners of functioning internal organs to the whiskey bottle.

No, no, no! say officials. Mobs of famished reanimated corpses are not about to turn you and your loved ones into Happy Meals.

And yet, authorities are taking no chances. They’re preparing for the worst.

On Sunday night, the fifth season of AMC’s hit TV show “The Walking Dead’’ premiered, with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the gang of badass post-apocalyptic survivors not only dispatching zombies into permanent graves, but fighting non-zombie humans, who can be even more threatening than the living dead.

But can we in the real world expect the deceased to come back to life, bite people and turn them into zombies, too? You should know that the Department of Defense has put out a remarkably detailed, unclassified document, titled CONOP 8888, that tackles this very scourge.

Written in 2011, this manual for “counterzombie dominance,” first unearthed by Foreign Policy magazine in May, provides the military and civilians with strategies for battling everything from “vegetarian zombies,” which pose no threat to people, to “evil magic zombies,” which do.

Is this some kind of perverse, politically correct humor? Is the government substituting outlandish villains for, say, radical Muslims?

“This plan was not actually designed as a joke,” document creators wrote. “The hyperbole involved in writing a ‘zombie survival plan’ actually provided a very useful and effective training tool” for dealing with all kinds of threats.

As zombie aficionados know, the surest way to put down a zombie is to shoot it in the brain, then burn the body, CONOP 8888 helpfully divulges. According to the document, one class of zombie is proven to exist — “chicken zombies (CZs).”

These are described as old hens that can no longer lay eggs and are gassed by poultry farmers with carbon monoxide and buried, “but inexplicably come back and dig themselves out of piles of dead chickens,” then stagger around before dying, for good, of organ failure. “CZs are simply terrifying to behold and are likely only to make people become vegetarians in protest to animal cruelty.”

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals should be proud.

Also in 2011, the CDC released “Preparedness 101: Zombie Pandemic,” a guide for surviving a zombie plague.

Coinciding with Halloween 2012, a five-day national conference was put on by the HALO Corp. in San Diego for more than 1,000 first responders, military personnel and law enforcement types. It included workshops produced by a Hollywood-affiliated firm in — you guessed it — overcoming a zombie invasion. Actors were made up to look like flesh-chomping monsters. The Department of Homeland Security even paid the $1,000 entry fees for an unknown number of participants, prompting US Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), who does not believe that zombies are coming, to issue a report railing against the waste of taxpayer money.

“Zombie disaster” drills were held in October 2012 and ’13 at California’s Sutter Roseville Medical Center. The exercises allowed medical center staff “to test response to a deadly infectious disease, a mass-casualty event, terrorism event and security procedures,” Erik Angle, Sutter’s emergency preparedness program coordinator, told me via email.

This month, REI outdoor-gear stores in Soho and around the country are to hold free classes in zombie preparedness, which the stores have been providing for about three years.

Why are we obsessed with freaks? “Zombies, like vampires, are stand-ins for evil,” Dr. Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist for Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, told me.

“There’s anxiety over everything these days, from terrorism to the economy to global warming,” he said. Also, Americans are terrified of the deadly Ebola virus, which has infected thousands of people in West Africa and spread to Europe and the United States.

Then there was Rudy Eugene, 31. Cops shot him dead in Miami in 2012 as he chewed off most of the face a homeless man, Ronald Poppo, then 65, while stark naked and growling. Poppo survived. Authorities initially surmised that Eugene was high on the street drug known as bath salts at the time of the attack, but marijuana was the only drug found in his system. It seems that the face biter might simply have been in a deranged, zombie-like state.

This bizarre episode and others — a New Jersey man stabbed himself 50 times, then cut out his own intestines and threw them at police; a Maryland college student was charged with murder after he allegedly ate the heart and brain of a housemate — prompted the CDC to try to put the kibosh on the zombie panic.

“CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms),” agency spokesman David Daigle told The Huffington Post.

Still, I think it’s best to be ready.

When the zombies come, I’m hiding under the bed.

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