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The Prison Epidemic

Spoiler Alert

Let me start by saying that I am not a doctor. I have no educational background in any sort of medicine. I’m not even exceptionally bright. But I HAVE been getting questions about whatever epidemic is sweeping the prison, so real, real quick I’ll lay out some basic info and hopefully someone that DOES have some education can drop some med bombs in the comments section below.

First, it’s important to note that in a situation like this, where the people have no access to labs or blood work they have to diagnose the symptoms. When you have diseases with overlapping symptoms you have to make your best guess. What they know is that the infected end with bleeding from the eyes, mouth, and nose, suffer from coughing, nausea, and other flu-like symptoms, there was a pig that died from infection, and there is at least one walker that appears to have died from something similar outside the prison.

So given the symptoms, the new doc Caleb says the illness could be pneumococcal infection (bacterial) or an aggressive flu (viral). A bacterial infection would be fought with antibiotics while a virus is normally fought with precautionary measures like a vaccine and post-infection with an antiviral (a product of the second half of the 20th century). Neither of which is stocked at the Prison.

So is it realistic that someone would die from either a bacterial or viral infection? Well, in real life, not really. Patrick went from fine to dead in about a day (assuming he didn’t crack his head open when he passed out) which is far too quick for either a pneumococcal infection or any flu. But it’s important to note that this is not real life. This is a zombie apocalypse and our survivors are infected with a disease that causes them to reanimate when they’re dead and also seems to cause quick death from walker bite. BOTH pneumococcal infection and influenza prey on and are accelerated by weak or under-developed immune systems, so it actually makes perfect sense that an epidemic would sweep through a dirty prison full of people with some sort of zombie infection.

What next, then? Well the group will need to either seek out meds from local hospitals, clinics, or pharmacies, or make them (and it’s not exactly easy or quick to make penicillin, though it is possible). This is made even more difficult by the lack of a clear diagnosis—while a viral infection and a bacterial infection can have similar symptoms, their treatments are completely different. In any event, it’s going to be interesting to see how they deal with this and how bad things will get. Knowing Robert Kirkman and The Walking Dead, things can get very, very bad.

Are you a doctor or play one on TV? Weigh in below! I won’t be offended when you tell me how wrong I am*!

*I lied, I will be extremely offended.

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  1. Sean October 21, 2013 at 10:34 am - Reply

    They actually said on the Talking Dead after the show that there was a disease in the early 20th century which caused an infected person who was “just getting sick at lunch” to be “dead by nightfall”.

  2. Travis October 21, 2013 at 10:55 am - Reply

    it was a great show last night

  3. LoveTWD October 21, 2013 at 5:32 pm - Reply
    This link mentions a “blood-like froth” coming out of people’s mouths during the 1918 flu epidemic. It also mentioned that people died very quickly – over night.

  4. Officer Friendly October 22, 2013 at 9:34 am - Reply

    Couldn’t they treat it as if were both? Like two treatments at once. I’m not sure how effective it would be or if the treatments would, in a sense, cancel each other out. But I think the logical explanation would be to take two people at the earliest onset of symptoms and treat one as if it’s bacterial and the other as if it’s viral. Which ever one gets better will determine what kind of disease it it.
    Also, I think everyone should lock themselves in their cells at nigh with a zip tie. Something that’s easily escapable for the living but not the dead.

    • LoveTWD October 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm - Reply

      The zip ties are a good idea, especially since they’re all carrying knives (or should be). All the more reason for Carol to teach the kids about how to use them and how to be safe with them. This is a new world they’re living in. I know that goes against the world we really do live in and we have no need to live that way; and it would be completely irresponsible. So, just for the record, I’m only advocating it for the show…. Those kids need to learn how to be safe and how to protect themselves. The only other solution would be to have a night guard in the cell blocks? Also, great points on using the scientific method to contain this latest outbreak. (lol??) Anyhow, I think the link in my other post explained how penicillin can be ‘home-made’. They may be running out of medicines and antibiotics and the meds they do have may be expiring soon? They’ll have new threats too for those born after the initial outbreak, for example, Judith has not had any vaccinations etc.

  5. Shawn Hall October 22, 2013 at 3:15 pm - Reply

    This is the first season I’ve watched. Question! PURELL! Why is God’s name, what with store raids, has no one taken a few cases of HAND SANITIZER?!! Even grab a case or two of DISINFECTIVE SPRAY? Did they think that just because there are zombies there will be no flu or other viruses? Don’t get me wrong; I’m LOVING the show!!! But come on and swipe some hand sanitizer and disinfective spray!!!

    • Shit Bird October 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm - Reply

      I’d imagine purell would be one of the first things depleted. remember, this is 4 seasons in, its been a few years.

      • Raven October 23, 2013 at 6:26 am - Reply

        A few years?! More like A year… remember a pregnancy only lasts 9 months in humans and the baby is only about 6 months old…

        • Shit Bird October 23, 2013 at 10:16 am - Reply

          The time frame has never been revealed. Neither in the comic, or in the show. But, look at Carl, look at the baby, consider the time jumps. It’s been 2 years a minimum. Regardless, whether it’s one year or ten years, Purell would be one of the first things depleted.

          • Raven October 23, 2013 at 11:20 am

            if you are going after Purell during a zombie apocalypse I pray for you I’ve also helped out on the set and know for a fact that it’s been no more than 18 months since Rick woke in the hospital. and they do the jump of time between each season because the actor who plays Carl is growing very fast he’s a preteen I guess you don’t have children…

          • Shit Bird October 23, 2013 at 11:49 am

            I do not have children you are right. If it’s only 18 months than fine. The time frame really doesn’t matter to me. I still think disinfectant would be one of those “secondary things” people would go back for when scavenging, and would be gone rather quickly. But you’re right, for an airborne virus it wouldn’t do much

          • Raven October 23, 2013 at 11:25 am

            and sorry to burst everyone’s bubble here but hand sanitizer will do nothing to for an airborne contagion…. leave the hand sanitizer and go for the weapons or medicine

          • Kadyn October 27, 2013 at 5:11 pm

            Time gets stated in “Talking Dead” after the episodes. I think they said that only 7months have passed

          • Shit Bird October 27, 2013 at 5:31 pm

            They said its been 7 months since season 2. Children certainly dont age that fast in 7 months don’t be ridiculous.

  6. Shit Bird October 22, 2013 at 5:39 pm - Reply

    I would imagine this is a fictional virus that is being spread, but the symptoms sound like a super fast version of Ebola Virus to me. Here’s a link and a couple short excepts from the article.

    How Do People Catch Ebola Fever?
    -person to person through contact with infected blood and body fluids. Doctors also believe that it passes through the air when an infected person coughs or sneezes

    What Are the Symptoms?
    -ever, headache, and body aches, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, cough, chest pain, and sore throat, sensitivity to light, swollen lymph glands, rash, often they develop severe bleeding from many parts of the body

  7. Melanie T-G October 23, 2013 at 8:08 am - Reply

    Here are a couple of thoughts:
    – Daryl may be a carrier of a mutated zombie strain. He licks his fingers before shaking the hand of the first infected person, the kid who dies in the shower.
    – Everyone who ate the deer Daryl Dixon killed, are the ones infected by this new/different zombie strain and it is mutating. There are cues to animals being infected throughout the first two episodes. The sick pig dying, being one cue and the first person to be infected, the kid who dies in the shower. At the beginning of the second episode, he thanked Daryl for the deer, saying it was a treat for all of them.

    • Lori Cerny November 8, 2013 at 7:39 am - Reply

      Daryl specifically mentions that they were eating barbecue the day prior to getting sick. Can you barbecue venison? I assumed the deer was just a red herring and whatever pig they ate was infected.

  8. Ashley P November 6, 2013 at 11:13 pm - Reply

    As Hershel stated once in the show, it’s not the virus that kills you, it’s the symptoms. You can die very quickly from a virus when that virus causing your lungs to fill with fluid or inflame to the point of suffocation. Also, fever can destroy your brain. Controlling both of those symptoms drastically raises chances of survival.

  9. tama November 10, 2013 at 6:14 pm - Reply

    it’s the rat disease….wiels or weils disease…sorry not sure the correct spelling…but all the symptoms match…it can be agressive as well…the bleeding….all the same

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