on the Walking Dead, have we seen a Walker bite such that it was clear that if zombieism hadn't been involved, the person would have certainly recovered? I'm trying to establish whether the zombie bites per se are fatal, vis a vis infection, or whether these folks are simply dying from having their necks torn out.

2 Answers 2


Yes, there is such a case.

In episode "Wildfire", Jim gets bitten. As you can see here, there was very little actual damage to the bite, with only minor penetration from the teeth.

Such a bite would hardly have been fatal without the zombie plague, even if it infected badly, as the group had knowledge of proper first aid and easy access to antibiotics

as can be seen when T-Dog injures himself while hiding from the zombie herd in season two.

  • 1
    this is meant to be a response to the answer not question, I didn't see a button for that: I'm not sure that Jim's bite should qualify as we don't see him turn, instead just seeing him get sick. It's a bit of a stretch, but he may have been suffering from some other infection related to the bite and actually he may have not died at all. And mentioning the antibiotics used later isn't really relevant for 2 reasons: 1st - the meds weren't revealed, remember when they go looking and later Daryl says why didn't y'all ask I've got my brothers stash. So they didn't know they had antibiotics. 2nd - t
    – user11408
    Dec 18, 2012 at 1:41
  • That's a good point. He may well have had a bad infection irrespective of a supposed zombie virus...being bitten by a human is generally bad voodoo anyway. Even if Jim did die from an infection from the walker bite, that still doesn't totally validate this premise...nevertheless, this is a perfectly accurate answer to my specific question. Dec 18, 2012 at 16:26
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    My point was mostly that, if Jim's bite wound had been inflicted by anything else than a walker, the other characters would've had the medical knowledge to treat it. If it ever infected, it is very likely that Daryl would've produced the required antibiotics since he was close at hand at that moment. So yes, maybe Jim didn't turn and just suffered from a nasty infection that ended up killing him for lack of treatment. The reason he didn't receive that treatment was because it was a walker that bit him. Otherwise, it would most likely not have been fatal, whatever the actual cause of death was.
    – Dungarth
    Dec 18, 2012 at 20:19

Robert Kirkman, the creator of the Walking Dead franchise, has explicitly stated that "zombieism" has nothing to do with people dying of zombie bites.

"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.""
- Originally written in the "Letter Hacks" section of an issue of the comic books, and quoted from the TWD wiki.

So you can examine deaths related to zombie bites on the show, on a case by case basis, and rule out the ones where the victim obviously died from blood loss or some other traumatic injury. You'll be left with all the cases in which the person died of an infection. According to Kirkman, the infections in question are not related to the zombie "virus", but are more mundane infections that probably have something to do with the obvious filthiness of a zombie's mouth.

This is actually quite plausible, in terms of medical science. Prior to the invention of antibiotics, it was very common for doctors and morticians to die from infections caused by accidentally cutting themselves while performing a dissection or autopsy. Dead bodies are full of all sorts of horrible pathogens, and if you introduce them into your bloodstream, you are going to become very ill very quickly.

Zombies, obviously, eat dead bodies all the time, and their mouths are filled with rotting flesh. Thus, being bitten by a zombie is a great way to get a horrible infection, and for whatever reason, antibiotics don't help at all.

  • +1 This is the right answer to the question of whether zombie bites are fatal because of the zombie virus. Like Word of God clearly states, the answer is "no". I think the episode mentioned in the accepted answer is a mistake on the part of the scriptwriters.
    – Andres F.
    Jun 27, 2015 at 22:59
  • Yet a zombie bite tends to infect and kill really quickly compared to real world bacterial infection rates.
    – user16696
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:01
  • @cde - For the most part, yes. But in the days before antibiotics, infections were quite capable of killing a person very quickly.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:07
  • In under a day?
    – user16696
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:10
  • @cde - Meningitis kills in about a day sometimes.
    – Wad Cheber
    Jun 27, 2015 at 23:11

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