It seems to me that if everyone is infected so that even a natural death would turn a human into a zombie, why is there concern over non-lethal zombie bites? For example, the need to cut off Herschel's leg. Does the bite itself, no matter how insignificant, cause death?


Everybody is already infected and will turn into a zombie upon their death, as such, to avoid turning into a zombie, you have to avoid death in general.

A bite from the walking dead can very quickly turn infected and gangrenous, which without proper medical attention will result in a painful death. As such there isn't really such a thing as a "non-lethal zombie bite" because you can't be certain that it will not cause a festering infection.

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    I'm pretty sure this is it. Getting bitten by a rotten corpse is pretty bad and will lead to a serious infection (as it would in real life if zombies could bite); once you're dead, you reanimate as a walker. The virus and the blood must be red herrings! A consequence of this theory would be that getting scratched by a zombie (a zombie with long nails :P) would also be fatal. – Andres F. Feb 25 '14 at 17:20
  • "A bite from the walking dead can very quickly turn infected and gangrenous" So can lopping off someone's leg with a blunt axe used for fighting walkers mere seconds ago. Compound this with the blood loss, excruciating pain and Hershell's age, I'm amazed he made it out of the cafeteria at all – Robotnik Feb 27 '14 at 6:45

The canon explanation in The Walking Dead is that "Everyone is infected with a dormant/passive version of the virus."

Upon the host's death, the virus activates, transforming the host into a walker.

When bit by a walker, It transfers some of the live/active virus into the victim. This virus stays active, slowly killing the host through the process of making them a walker.

This is explained & shown in the final Season 1 episode of the TV series, TS-19:

What isn't explained in the video, but later in the scene, is that the Test Subject had been bitten, and had volunteered to be monitored so the CDC might find a cure.

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  • Fair enough, but this doesn't explain why getting bitten is so much worse than being sprayed with zombie blood. In Series 1 they sometimes try and wear masks, coats and gloves when dealing with zombies, but in later series this has gone out the window. Quite often the characters are positively soaked in gore without any ill effects. It may be that the active virus is concentrated in saliva rather than blood, specifically because this allows it to spread through bites -- but that is just speculation on my part. – Royal Canadian Bandit Feb 25 '14 at 14:06
  • The trick is you have to break the skin, which does a damn good job of keeping out regular viruses and poisons in real life. I imagine a similar situation in play for the Walking Dead, although that's very thin excuse considering they're living in a world of scrapes, cuts, guns, knives, burns and explosions. However we haven't seen other signs of neglect & uncleanliness (festering wounds, gangrene etc). That's the only excuse I can think of that kinda sews together the plot-hole – Robotnik Feb 25 '14 at 14:15
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    Skin is good, but it's not that good. There's a reason why surgeons wear latex gloves, and people researching deadly diseases wear full-body protective suits. There's also the prospect of inhaling or swallowing small droplets of airborne blood as you bash away at zombies with a crowbar. No, I think the answer to "why are bites worse" requires some additional explanation/handwaving which we have not yet seen. – Royal Canadian Bandit Feb 25 '14 at 14:20
  • True. It's also possible that the virus works similar to a venom as opposed to a poison (you could pour litres of snake venom over your body, hell, even drink the stuff) without any negative effects. But until we are told otherwise, it's all speculation – Robotnik Feb 25 '14 at 14:25
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    @AndresF.: Quite so. And by walker "saliva" I meant "whatever fluid is present in their mouths". But given that walkers defy many other rules of biology, perhaps we should not examine the biting question too closely. – Royal Canadian Bandit Feb 26 '14 at 9:07

The zombie bite contains a more powerful, or fully developed form of the virus. It spreads from the bite area and eventually kills the victim. The only way to prevent it from turning the victim into a zombie is to remove the infected area from the body. A bite to the arm or the leg would require that you amputate the bitten limb. If you get bitten on the neck or the shoulder then there isn't much you can do. Just go somewhere away from everyone else.

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  • What in the zombie mouth has the more developed virus? The teeth? The tongue? Could a zombie scratch with one of his nails infect you? – Andres F. Feb 25 '14 at 17:16
  • It isn't a more powerful developed form of the virus; plain old infection. "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."" —Robert Kirkman – kidragakash Feb 11 '15 at 12:43

Yes, the change happens a few hours after one is bitten or a few hours after when one dies whichever comes first.

Another way of looking at it is that zombie bites are highly venomous and normally kill the victim within a few hours and they then turn.

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  • I know this hasn't been explained, but venomous how? It can't be saliva, since very old corpses don;'t have working saliva glands. So it must be something else in their teeth or mouth. Blood? That can't be it, since soaking yourself in their blood won't infect you, even when every living person has many skin scratches and minor injuries. – Andres F. Feb 25 '14 at 17:13
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    To be honest, the actual science of the show does not hold up to close inspection. There is no real way that a disease could work the way this one does. – Stefan Feb 25 '14 at 23:59
  • Yes, of course. Sorry if I sounded nitpicky :) I'm trying to find consistency within the absurdity of a show with zombies! – Andres F. Feb 26 '14 at 1:42
  • Of course, it was a perfectly valid question :-) – Stefan Feb 26 '14 at 7:25

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