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Fair warning: this entire question is about the central plot point of the movie World War Z, and unavoidably spoils the film.

Lane's answer to the problem of zombies wanting to attack humans is to make each human terminally ill with a serious disease. He came up with the solution by observing zombies ignoring what ought to have been easy targets when those targets were weak. This doesn't seem like a viable long-term solution to me.

If the plan works as designed, then "camouflaged" humans will be safe from zombies, but will just die from the disease instead, which is no good. So the humans must also be given cures, which is indeed what the movie implies. But once people were cured, they would no longer be weak, and therefore should once again be "on the radar" of zombies, which would make the whole exercise pointless. Otherwise, if zombies could detect mere carriers of disease, anyone who'd ever had chicken pox ought to have been safe from zombie attack.

The only other option I can think of is cycles of giving people a disease, sending them out to kill zombies, giving them cures and then starting over with different diseases. That seems unsustainable, both for medical reasons and for running-out-of-available-diseases reasons, and also unsupported by the brief voiceover at the end of the movie. What am I missing here?

  • I'm pretty sure the intent was to inoculate the population with an harmless form of the fatal disease. The idea being that the zombies would detect the presence of a contaminant that would commonly indicate the fatal disease, and thereafter ignore that person. – Andrew Thompson Dec 14 '14 at 7:31
  • @AndrewThompson - Not quite. My thought is that you'd drop an ampule with both a live version of whichever disease you'd picked and some antibiotics to cure it. It would give you camouflage for a certain amount of time before the zombies detected you were well again. – Valorum Dec 14 '14 at 8:01
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    The solution was implausible, even by the standards of a zombie movie that had been adapted with a crowbar for action, action and more action; I think we have to accept the fact that it makes very little sense and enjoy the popcorn. I've heard the solution in the book made more sense, but couldn't deliver such a tidy ending. – Beta Dec 14 '14 at 8:02
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    In the book, it;s just a long, hard slog. It makes for a horrible movie, but an amazing book. – Affable Geek Dec 14 '14 at 21:43
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I just re-watched the end of the film.

Around the 1h30m mark, they discuss needing something with a high mortality rate but curable--probably bacteria. Then the voice-over in the 'epilogue' mentions the CDC developing a vaccine of some sort. When Lane gets trapped in the vault, he doesn't get cured of whatever he injected himself with until he gets back to the main office but he also doesn't wander around breathing on everybody.

I'd hypothesize that Lane's camouflage idea is mostly a short-term solution. It would enable soldiers (and civilians) to move through infected areas with relative safely, enabling them to achieve short-term goals and complete small projects: build barriers, run an evacuation mission, gather supplies, push back some of the horde. Or if people were surrounded by the horde but otherwise safe, you could do an airdrop with supplies for them infect themselves and escape.

But eventually, you'd start running into drug-resistant strains of whatever it is you're inoculating people with. Or a soldier has run so many missions that he or she is immune to everything available. And you'd have to keep track of what diseases everyone has been inoculated with to prevent too much possible interbreeding (may not even be possible, but this is sci-fi, after all).

So no, it's probably not going to be a long-term solution. But at least in the short-run, it makes it easier for people to move around, and it gives the scientists a bit more time to develop a vaccine against the zombie plague.

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    as well as incinerate, eviscerate, shred, dismember, and disintegrate zombies – Thorin Schmidt Dec 16 '14 at 18:13

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