(If you haven't seen season 3, episode 6 this question contains some small spoilers!)

In season 3, episode 6 we see Michonne getting shot in her leg, shortly afterwards we see her gutting a zombie with her sword resulting in the intestines of the zombie to cover most of Michonne's body.

So why isn't she a zombie now? Clearly blood and other bodily goodies from the zombie cover her wound which should result in a 'active' version of the virus to interact with her bloodstream.

According to https://scifi.stackexchange.com/a/11341/2691

"The active virus seems to cause fever, death, and reanimation. The dormant virus activates upon death, causing reanimation. It's also possible that the dormant virus activates upon contact with an active sample of the virus, which would help account for the rapid onset of symptoms."

Shouldn't she have turned before showing up at the prison?

  • 10
    It will be revealed in Season 12 that the whole zombie thing is psychosomatic. Nov 21, 2012 at 22:19
  • 3
    It is worth pointing out that my answer there is (in part) theoretical. It could also be that the blood/intestines don't hold live virus, only the saliva does.
    – Jeff
    Nov 22, 2012 at 1:09

6 Answers 6


The fact that Herschel was bitten and is still not a walker proves that the theory of the "active virus" mentioned in the answer you linked to is not quite right. If it was, his body would have been infected far quicker by the introduction of the walker saliva/fluids directly into his bloodstream than Michonne getting covered in some entrails.

It's been at least a few days since Herschel was bit. As of the end of S03E06, it's been at most a day since Michonne came into contact with infected blood.

So far, we have not seen any instance of survivors being infected just by coming into contact with infected blood. They have only turned after death.

In fact, in this interview, creator Robert Kirkman confirms that contact with blood is not enough to turn a person. (emphasis mine):

This is a real Comic Book Guy question — but do I gather that if someone swallows a tiny bit of zombie blood they won’t turn into one of the undead? There was a lot of it being sprayed around this episode.

Yeah, people to a certain extent think of zombie blood as being like the blood from Alien. You know, in the Alien movies it’s like, “Oh god, if it touches you, you explode!” or whatever. Whatever it is that turns these people into zombies is in them already. So the idea of getting zombie blood on your face, which happens all the time, and it turning you into a zombie is something that’s just not the case.

Now, that doesn’t make the zombie bite any less lethal. You know, breaking the skin, having that kind of contact with the toxicity that zombie mouths would have, would be something that causes an infection that definitely would lead to your death and then the thing that’s already in you would turn you into a zombie. So there is a science to this, to a certain extent.

  • 2
    Regarding your first paragraph. They amputated his infected parts before it could cause havoc inside his body. While it was uncertain for the group to know if this would work, they do appear to be following the same idea as in: zombieblood in contact with blood/saliva causes death/zombification.
    – Willem
    Nov 21, 2012 at 22:15
  • 1
    blood is circulated through the body in about 1.5 minutes. I can't remember if they amputated him in the hall or back in the cell. But if it takes 1.5 minutes for the blood to get all the way through the body, it's only going to take a fraction of that for the "active virus" to get out of his leg.
    – phantom42
    Nov 21, 2012 at 22:26
  • @phantom42: The fact the your heart pumps through a volume of blood equal to your entire volume of blood in 1-1.5 minutes doesn't mean that all your blood cells pass through your entire body every 1.5 minutes. Obviously blood in your peripheral capillaries doesn't go very fast. It probably take a few minutes for blood to get from your main arteries out to the surface of your skin and back to main veins. Nov 22, 2012 at 1:10
  • Quickly applying pressure (or better, a tourniquet) to a wound would slow blood flow even more.
    – Jeff
    Nov 22, 2012 at 1:11
  • I'm not saying it needs to get through the entire body that quick - just that the infection would likely spread out of the leg quicker than they chopped the leg off. If the argument is that the "active virus" is what triggers the change to a walker, then Herschel would have been infected with the "active virus".
    – phantom42
    Nov 22, 2012 at 2:51

Because she hasn't died yet.

The virus itself (dormant or otherwise) doesn't cause death, it causes the reanimation.

Everyone else that's turned has had to die first, and each of them that have turned (aside from Shane, of course) have died from bleeding out/shock/etc.


I guess this falls into the category similar to the first season where Rick and Glen covered themselves in zombie guts. I'm sure they had some cuts and open wounds when they did that, even though they had layered clothing on. The same can go for when one of the humans splits a zombie head open or shoves a knife down their throat while spattering blood all over the place. Onset may occur faster if saliva introduces the virus into the host blood stream. In the case of Michonne, a gun shot entry would is pretty small, like the size of a nickel (I dont recall seeing an exit wound on her leg). Its possible that not enough zombie blood, if any at all, could have gotten in. Just speculation. OR....It could be an overlooked mishap during scripting. I guess it's how detail oriented you want to get with it.


I think you are all forgetting something, though it conflicts with the story line. Rick stated in an episode that everyone is already a carrier for the virus, that we are all already infected but it takes a death to activate the reanimation. This conflicts with the episode when they are in the Center for Disease because it lead us to believe a bite is what infects and kills us. He infected his wife and it showed that after infection she had died. Maybe the writers just forgot to add that with the injection of the virus they also gave her an overdoes of morphine. That's what I keep telling my self.

  • His wife was attacked. He didn't inject her with the virus. And she volunteered to be studied as she died
    – user13735
    Apr 10, 2013 at 23:14

Just a shot here, but maybe a walker's bite simply creates a massive blood infection that kills the victim (due to lack of antibiotics or just an untreatable strain), then the carrier virus reanimates them. Could explain it all.


I would refer you to the natural history of a possibly similar infection, that of hydrophobia or rabies. The viral load resulting from an infected bite lives entirely within neural tissue, and slowly multiplies and travels centrally within the neural tract. Central appearance of the virus can take weeks, and this coincides with the (some might say) zombie-like symptoms of rabies.

  • 1
    Hi @Douglas, welcome to SFF.SE! A source for your points will help improve the quality of your answer :)
    – Möoz
    Oct 23, 2014 at 20:21

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