Take the 2-minute tour ×
Science Fiction & Fantasy Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for science fiction and fantasy enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I'm wondering where the infection causing peoples to turn into zombies start from?

share|improve this question
I'm assuming that you are talking about the TV Show, but to be clear, you should probably formally state if you are asking about the TV Show or comics. The show is based on the comics, but has diverged greatly already. –  spong Feb 17 '12 at 18:30
@sunpech does this retag do the job? –  DavRob60 Feb 17 '12 at 18:33
Yup, looks good. :) –  spong Feb 17 '12 at 18:35
Must be a Sumatran Rat Monkey. –  Jeff Feb 17 '12 at 20:29
In the TV series there hasn't been an explanation so far. This is easily found by, you know, actually watching the series ;) (painful, I know, what with all the soap opera drama) –  Andres F. Feb 17 '12 at 20:39

7 Answers 7

up vote 8 down vote accepted

The cause of the outbreak is not known. It has been made fairly clear that the initial source of the virus is not currently something that either the comic or the show are planned to address, as this quote from an interview with show producer Glen Mazzara indicates:

Will determining the cause of the outbreak be something that the group, now that they know they're all infected, spends time on?

Mazzara: Robert has not been interested in addressing in the comic book, and I'm not interested in addressing in the show. That being said, if it leads to new story -- if there's something that's important that we get out of it -- I'll be the first one to write it. But right now the cause of the zombie outbreak seems irrelevant. I always want the show to play like a horror movie every week. If you define what caused the outbreak, that puts us in a world of science fiction, and this isn't science fiction to me, it's horror. In my mind that's two different genres, so that is an important distinction to me.

All we really know about the virus is:

  • Everyone has it

  • It remains dormant in the brain

  • Sometime (anywhere from a few minutes to several hours) after the moment of death, the virus activates, and reanimates the body

We can also speculate that humans are likely the only animals that the virus infects.

All we can really infer from this is that the virus is likely airborne, due to how widespread the infection is.

share|improve this answer

"No explanation is offered for this behavior -- indeed, what explanation would suffice?" -- Roger Ebert

Logically there must have been a start to it, a Patient Zero, but that start wasn't revealed to us. The characters don't know how it started. Even Dr. Jenner of the CDC, who watched the progression of the contagion from the first reports, and had every possible research tool at his disposal, had no idea what it was and didn't seem to know where it really began.

This follows the real-life pattern of diseases like AIDS and Ebola. We can study them right down to their molecules, we can trace them back to a few square miles in Africa, but that might be as far as we ever get.

share|improve this answer

Not sure if it helps, the io9 article Everything you need to know about The Walking Dead explain why it has never been revealed.

What causes the zombie uprising in The Walking Dead?

In the comic, it's not entirely clear, and it's kind of a moot point anyway. Kirkman's said that he'll never reveal the origins of the undead uprising. Furthermore, it's just not the series' foremost concern. The main characters aren't super-sexy undead researchers. They're average schmos with average lives, and — barring one or two seemingly unkillable characters — they die extremely easily. The series is about staying alive (i.e. finding food, ammunition, and shelter; not going insane). We have yet to see whether the TV show will address the zombies' origins.

share|improve this answer

In the webisodes a terrorist attack was mentioned. At the end of series 2 it was revealed that everyone is infected and they will reanimate after death. There would have been a further explanation to the outbreak in a planned webisode. Remember, in series 1 when Rick jumps in the tank and there is a walker in there? Well this was to be the ending of the planned webisode. The walker was a US Army Ranger in Atlanta trying to evacuate the population during the outbreak but the city was overrun. This webisode was shelved due to budgeting issues. It is a shame because it would have given us a picture of what happened prior to Rick waking from his coma at the hospital.

share|improve this answer

In the comics, and I am just assuming the show, it is an infection. It is not believed to be air-born but basically everyone has it. You fall down stairs and break your neck, you're a zombie.

Quote from Robert Kirkman:

The rule is: WHATEVER it is that causes the zombies, is something everyone already has. If you stub your toe, get an infection and die, you turn into a zombie, UNLESS your brain is damaged. If someone shoots you in the head and you die, you're dead. A zombie bite kills you because of infection, or blood loss, not because of the zombie "virus."

He has also said he won't reveal the cause in the comics so we will have to wait to see on the TV show but I wouldn't hold your breath. I guess it is up to the viewers own imagination.

share|improve this answer
The OP isn't asking how people turn into zombies (which your reply explains), but how the infection started. –  Andres F. Apr 5 '13 at 17:18
Well then this is basically an unanswerable question since Robert Kirkman has said he won't reveal it in the comics so I take it they won't reveal it in the show. –  c8irish Apr 5 '13 at 17:22
I agree with you: it's unanswerable. So that must be the "answer" to this question, with a quote from Kirkman :) (I've reverted my downvote after your last edit, btw) –  Andres F. Apr 5 '13 at 17:22

There can be many explanations for the outbreak of the infection:

  • It broke out as a common virus and became a global epidemic in the few months that Rick was in coma for. As in the first season The CDC was working on it, this shows maybe that it started as a virus.

  • It started off as a terrorist attack as in the Comics.

  • It started off like in "Resident Evil" i.e. by mistake maybe, there is no proof for this, but it is just a possibility.

share|improve this answer

In the TV series, they differ greatly from the comic book series, in the TV series the infection is more closely and probably intentionally styled after the Solanum Virus from "The Zombie Survival Guide" and "World War Z". The difference being is that with the Solanum Virus or with the Walking Dead, everyone is already infected. But bites cause a lethal infection that kills you, and then you are reanimated. How this started is a little sketchy, I imagine the virus that everyone was already infected with mutated and when someone died they came back.. this is probably why infections started out in multiple locations and there is no true "patient zero"

share|improve this answer
If everyone had the virus before it mutated, then not everyone would have the virus causing the reanimation. –  phantom42 Jul 16 '12 at 20:18
They are one in the same virus, Phantom42. The virus causing reanimation was already present in nature, and had to have mutated somehow. This is why people start coming back from the dead. This is also why people are coming back even though they have not been injured by one of the walkers. The zombie bite doesn't actually cause the spread of the virus, it just causes a lethal infection that kills. This is why in the comics and such it can be stopped by amputating the affected limb quickly after it has been bitten. –  Aron Jul 17 '12 at 22:58
The virus causing the reanimation may have already existed, but the mutation had to have occurred BEFORE everyone was infected. Once it is present in everyone, a newly mutated virus in one organism is not going to suddenly propagate the changes to all other existing copies of it within other organisms. That said, the virus could have existed with some sort of dormant mutation which was triggered/activated by some sort of catalyst (think of comic mutant powers first exhibiting due to adrenaline). –  phantom42 Jul 18 '12 at 12:39
Can you give an example of someone in "The Walking Dead" (TV) being reanimated without having been in contact with a walker? –  Beta Aug 2 '12 at 14:15
@AndresF.: you have the advantage of me; I've seen only season 1 so far. –  Beta Sep 17 '12 at 19:26

protected by Community Oct 15 '12 at 12:52

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.