With Sony Online Entertainment releasing its much anticipated Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) zombie game H1Z1, we’d like to tell you the REAL facts behind the virus “H1Z1.”

In 2009, the BBC reported that a mutation of the H1N1 Swine Flu virus, called H1Z1, was causing the dead to come back to life.  Here is that bizarre story.


There are many variations of the Flu virus, as it mutates.  Their names generally take the format H#N#.

H5N1 created a huge stir in 2005, with the extermination of millions of birds in Asia, and the beginning of cases in humans. It was called the Avian flu. On September 29, 2005, David Nabarro, the newly appointed Senior United Nations System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza, warned the world that an outbreak of Avian influenza could kill 5 to 150 million people.

On Monday April 1, 2005, BBC News reported that Cambodian Troops had quarantined the small town near the border of Laos called Quan’sul due to an “small outbreak of zombism.”


From the fake BBC Site:

Cambodian Troops Quarantine Quan’sul

The culprit was discovered to be mosquitoes native to that region carrying a new strain of Malaria which thus far has a 100 percent mortality rating killing victims in fewer than 2 days.

After death, this virus is able to restart the heart of its victim for up to two hours after the initial demise of the person where the individual behaves in extremely violent ways from what is believe to be a combination of brain damage and a chemical released into blood during resurrection.

Cambodian officials say that the outbreak has been contained and the public has no need to worry.

General Ary Serey had this to say, “We have obtained samples of this new virus and plan to learn how it starts the heart and other major organs of the deceased. We intend to use this to increase the quality of life for all.”

US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice opposed the plan saying that the Cambodian government holds a great biological weapon and should destroy it immediately. Cambodian officials have yet to comment.

A United Nations team will be dispatched to Cambodia to confirm the safety of biological research in Cambodia.

Note there was no connection to the existing H5N1 virus. This was, of course, an April Fools joke. I have been unable to locate who pulled off this hoax, but they did a good job. The site looked like the real thing, right down to live links to the actual BBC site. Anyone who looked at the address bar though, would have noticed that they weren’t on the real site. Apparently alot of people didn’t notice, and there was much speculation bouncing around the net, despite its over-the-top subject. The hysteria of millions of possible deaths from an existing real pandemic didn’t help.

The perpetrators weren’t quite clever enough (or were perhaps more sensitive) to connect it to the flu-dejour (the H5N1 Avian flu). That was accomplished by the next hoaxsters, which appear to be the website BounceWith.me.uk (no longer live).


H1N1 was the most common cause of human influenza in 2009. In June 2009, the World Health Organization declared the new strain of swine-origin H1N1 as a pandemic. This strain is often called swine flu by the public media. On October 25, 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama officially declared H1N1 a national emergency. This novel virus spread worldwide and had caused about 17,000 deaths by the start of 2010.


BounceWith.me.uk essentially used the same computer source code as our first hoaxsters, duplicating the BBC News site again, with live links etc, but with a different headline, hitting closer to home.  They also came up with a catchy variation to the real virus name, and called it H1Z1.  This is the first instance of the name being used:

EU Quarantines London in Flu Panic

There has been a small outbreak of zombism in London due to mutation of the H1N1 virus into new strain: H1Z1.

This article continued by referencing the previous hoax (as if it were real), by starting with the following paragraph:

Similar to a scare originally found in Cambodia back in 2005, victims of a new strain of the swine flu virus H1N1 have been reported in London.

A hoax within a hoax!  The article continues, duplicating the next paragraph from the 2005 article verbatim, mentioning the virus restarting the heart of its victims, and then launches into some entirely new material:

The World Health Organization (WHO) has raised the alert to phase six, its highest level, and advised governments to activate pandemic contingency plans.

You can read the entire page HERE.

But it’s not all fun and game…

EPILOGUE – The following part is not a hoax…

As of early January 2014, Texas health officials have confirmed at least thirty-three H1N1 deaths and wide-spread outbreak during the 2013/2014 flu season,while twenty-one more deaths have been reported across the US. Nine people have been reported dead from an outbreak in several Canadian cities,and Mexico reports outbreaks resulting in at least one death. Spanish health authorities have confirmed 35 H1N1 cases in the Aragon region, 18 of whom are in intensive care.


In 2005, Lexiteria picked “pandemic” as the word of the year because of the threat of a pandemic of the H5N1 Avian flu that year. In 2009, the H1N1 Swine flu was on everyone’s mind, and the term pandemic became one of the key words of the year (actually Merriam-Webster reported it was the 7th most looked up word, with Admonish, Emaciated, and Empathy tellingly at 1, 2 and 3 respectively).

Google tracks “mentions” of particular words as they appear in books and literature, and provides some interesting metrics. Below is a cool chart showing how the word “pandemic” has grown to a place of prominence (and perhaps concern) in today’s lexicon.

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