The horrific face-eating arrest in Miami and several other seemingly subhuman acts has many people wondering what's behind this flesh-munching wave of terror.
A zombie apocalypse, however, is not what we should be worried about, at least according to the federal government.
Over the years the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a couple of tongue-in-cheek "zombie warnings," which really are just disaster-preparedness stunts. But on Thursday, the agency made it official: Zombies don't exist.
"CDC does not know of a virus or condition that would reanimate the dead (or one that would present zombie-like symptoms)," wrote agency spokesman David Daigle in an email to The Huffington Post.
Nevertheless, recent incidents in which humans reportedly ate human flesh have the Internet in a firestorm, with "zombie apocalypse" being Google's third most popular search term by Friday morning.
The zombie craze seemed to start with an attack in Miami on Saturday, when Rudy Eugene, 31, was killed by cops while in the process of eating almost the entirety of a homeless man's face off. The victim, Ronald Poppo, miraculously survived, but doctors are having a hard time figuring out how to put his face back together.
ZOM-BIE: n. also ZOM-BIES pl. 1. An animated corpse that feeds on living human flesh. 2. A voodoo spell that raises the dead. 3. A Voodoo snake god. 4. One who moves or acts in a daze "like a zombie." [a word of West African origin] - Max Brooks, "The Zombie Survival Guide"
Then, on Tuesday, 21-year-old Alexander Kinyua of Maryland allegedly admitted to dismembering his roommate and then eating his heart and brain.
Cops in Canada are also searching for a low-budget porn actor who allegedly killed a young man with an ice pick, dismembered the body and then raped and ate flesh from the corpse. Luka Rocco Magnotta is being hunted after he allegedly mailed some of the body parts to Ottawa. He's also accused of killing cats on video and posting the footage online.
Gawker fingered a "mysterious rash" breakout at a high school in Hollywood and other parts of Florida -- which hazmat and disease control teams still can't explain -- as further proof that zombies are taking over.
Zombie-like characteristics have been confirmed in the animal kingdom, just not in humans. A newfound fungus in a Brazilian rain forest -- called Ophiocordyceps camponoti-balzani -- is known to infect an ant, take over its brain so as to move the body to a good location for growth, and then kill the insect.
Yet Daigle dismissed "fictional viruses" like Ataxic Neurodegenrative Satiety Deficiency Syndrome, noting that other triggers have been alleged to cause zombie-like symptoms.
"Films have included radiation as well as mutations of existing conditions such as prions, mad-cow disease, measles, and rabies," he said.
But recently, some have found truth stranger than fiction.
"Action must be taken now before an outbreak!" an anonymous reader told The Huffington Post. "Zombies may be subdued by destroying the brain or removing the head. It is now your responsibility to prevent the apocalypse."
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated that Gawker pointed out a rash outbreak in the Hollywood district of Los Angeles. It's actually in Hollywood, Florida. We regret the error.
A City of Miami police officer stands watch near the scene where a naked man, far right, was shot dead on the MacArthur Causeway ramp onto Northeast 13th Street in Miami on Saturday, May 26, 2012. A witness said the naked man continued to chew on the face of another naked man on a Miami highway ramp and growled when a police officer tried to stop him. The victim remained hospitalized Monday. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Marsha Halper) MAGS OUT
First responders treat Ronald Poppo after the attack.
Rudy Eugene, undated photo
Westbound traffic on the MacArthur Causeway, approaching the Northeast 13th Street ramp in Miami, is backed up Saturday May 26, 2012, after a police officer fatally shot a naked man on the ramp who was chewing on the face of another naked man. The victim remained hospitalized Monday. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Marsha Halper) MAGS OUT
Photos Released of Face-Chewing Victim in Miami
Doctors release photos of Ronald Poppo, the 65-year-old homeless man who was the victim of a gruesome face-eating attack in Miami.
Miami Homeless Discuss Face-Eating Attack
Homeless men who live near where one man allegedly ate the face of a homeless man react to the crime. (May 30)
Gloria Allred, Yovonka Bryant
Yovanka Bryant, right, and her lawyer, Gloria Allred, show a photo of Bryant and her boyfriend Rudy Eugene, during a news conference, Wednesday, June 6, 2012 in Miami. Bryant said she last heard from Eugene the day before he chewed off the face of a homeless man alongside a Miami highway. A police officer shot and killed Eugene. The homeless man remains hospitalized. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)
Gloria Allred, Yovonka Bryant
Yovanka Bryant,left, and her lawyer, Gloria Allred, discuss a recent attack on a homeless man by Brant's boyfriend Rudy Eugene, during a news conference, Wednesday, June 6, 2012 in Miami. Bryant said she last heard from Eugene, the day before he chewed off the face of a homeless man alongside a Miami highway. A police officer shot and killed Eugene. The homeless man remains hospitalized. (AP Photo/J Pat Carter)