The past month has been rife with horrifying stories focused in the American South; first, the tale of college student Aimee Copeland, who lost her leg, foot, and both hands after cutting her leg in a zip-line accident and being exposed to bacteria-laden river water in Georgia. Soon after, three more stories surfaced of the so-called “flesh-eating disease”, which is a form of the common bacteria that causes strep: new mom Lana Kuykendall from South Carolina, who was rushed back to the hospital after giving birth to twins and complaining of severe pain in her leg. Soon after, Georgia resident Robert Vaughn–who coincidentally stayed just a couple of beds away from Aimee Copeland in the hospital–was told he had contracted the bacteria as well and had 2 1/2 pounds of dead flesh removed from his leg. Vaughn says he was nowhere near the water, but believes he might have picked it up from the brush while doing a landscaping job. Now, a fourth victim has come forward: Paul Bales, a Georgia grandfather who slipped and fell off a boat ramp in early May and cut his leg. Although he was exposed to a different water source than Copeland, the connection is worrisome for Georgia residents. Bales’ son says the antibiotics have stopped working to fight the disease and that he is scheduled to have one leg amputated below the knee.
Over Memorial Day weekend, a Miami man, Rudy Eugene, attacked and cannibalized a homeless man on a causeway, devouring most of his face in what police speculate was a drug-fueled rage. He ignored their cries for him to get off the victim and stood up growling, nude, and covered in blood with flesh dangling from his mouth before being shot at several times. Police say it took more than one shot to take him down; they believe he was under the influence of a new drug called “bath salts”, which causes the body temperature to skyrocket and leads to severe delirium, similar to the effects of LSD but much more powerful. The drug has been known to give users almost super-human strength and rage, making them dangerous to the public, themselves, and police.
Taken separately, these stories would be enough to make anyone want to lock themselves inside the safety of their own homes forever. But together, they are causing rumors about a zombie apocalypse, the end of the world, and conspiracy-theories involving the government. Given the fact that zombies have seen a rush of popularity in recent years, particularly after the sudden and enormous success of the AMC show “The Walking Dead” (based on the comic books of the same name), it’s not hard to see why people are scared.
When the Center For Disease Control released a blog post titled “Preparedness 101: Zombie Apocolypse” earlier this month, it was mostly viewed as a joke; but in light of recent events, it seems strange that the CDC–which is located in Atlanta, Georgia–would view preparedness for disaster as a laughing matter. People are scared and are looking for answers and comfort, and when they don’t get it, rumors begin flying.
While it seems clear that no answers are immediately forthcoming, the one thing we can be sure of is that, so far at least, it seems some of these things can be prevented. If you live near a warm water source–especially in the South–whether it be a lake, river, or pond, take care not to expose even the shallowest cut to it. Clean all wounds immediately, even if they aren’t bad enough to require a doctor’s attention. At the first sign of severe pain in a limb, go to the hospital at once.
Until an autopsy is performed on Rudy Eugene, we won’t know exactly what caused his horrific attack; not much has been released to the public about his victim, although he is alive and in critical condition.