What The Walking Dead Teaches Us About Flu Season
The Walking Dead is a zombie show that pulls heart-strings and causes viewers to jump. Have you ever thought about it as an educational show that teaches people about the dangers of flu season? Season four makes this aspect of the show even clearer by introducing an influenza-like virus that can lead to death.
Some Influenza Viruses Are Worse Than Others
If you get the flu, expect to spend a few days of fever, nausea, and the occasional bouts of gastrointestinal distress. You might also fell fatigued and sleepy, although that could side effects of your cold medicine.
Understand, however, that some influenza viruses have symptoms that make the common cold look like a single sneeze.
You can see that in the fourth season of The Walking Dead. The virus is so aggressive that it kills people by forcing them to hemorrhage and choke on their own blood. That’s a painful way to go.
Historically, though, populations around the world have suffered like this when they encountered new forms of disease. If your immune system hasn’t encountered a flu virus before, expect severe reactions. Maybe not hemorrhages, but things that you’d rather other people not know about.
Quarantine Can Prevent Viruses From Spreading
Hershel might have treated animals during his career as a vet, but he knows that viruses can spread quickly amongst any population. The group decides to quarantine people they suspect of carrying the flu. No one likes the idea of locking away fellow human beings, but it’s necessary to stop the flu from spreading to healthy people.
Once those in quarantine no longer show signs of the disease, they could re-enter the general population without spreading disease. Until then, it’s important for people to keep themselves separate from large groups. That’s why it’s a bad idea for you to go to work when you have the flu. You might think you’re toughing it out, but you’re actually putting everyone else in jeopardy.
If you have the right pharmacy medications, you could potentially get over the flu sooner and return to work. Without them, you’re looking at a lengthy recovery period.
Viruses Can Spread Between Species
Hershel’s experience as a veterinarian tells him that some viruses can spread between species. It doesn’t happen often, but it does happen. The bubonic plague, for instance, spread through Europe when infected fleas (carried by rats) bit humans.
Whether you think of zombies as reanimated human corpses or a different species, you clearly want to keep them away from healthy humans. In the Walking Dead, Rick gets the walkers to move away from their fence by releasing pigs. The pigs create a distraction that causes the zombies to follow them away from the human camp.
Had Rick refused to let the pigs loose, infected walkers could have spread the disease even faster.
The Dead Can Be Contagious
The flu-like disease in the Walking Dead becomes so aggressive by the middle of season 4 that some of the infected humans begin to die and reanimate as walkers. This raises a point that’s closely related to how viruses can spread from species to species: just because a person is dead, doesn’t mean she isn’t still contagious.
Viruses can keep living even after their hosts expire. In the Walking Dead, that means people succumbing to the disease come back to “life” as diseased zombies. Since they carry two diseases, now, they become even more dangerous.
Getting bitten by a walker causes a human to quickly turn into a zombie (almost as if the airborne virus that turns all dead people into zombies gets a boost that speeds up the process). Until this point in the series, survivors had to worry about bites and scratches. Now they have to worry about other ways that viruses might spread.
Coughs, sneezes, and blood can start to look as deadly as fangs. Imagine how tough it would be to fight a crowd of zombies without getting exposed to their body fluids.
Have you learned any other real-world lessons by watching the Walking Dead?