Zombie Guide Magazine knows that in any effort you make to categorize the anatomy of infection that is the Z-Virus, it is important for you to understand how a person becomes zombie. To do that, we will take you through a short look at viruses and how they affect humans. There are some things that you will need to know before we continue. A virus is an infective agent that typically is too small to be seen by light microscopy, and is able to multiply only within the living cells of a host. A cell is the smallest structural and functional unit of an organism. And last but not least, that getting infected by a virus that is carried through your cells is not good on your most mundane days. On your super dramatic moments it’s the worst thing that could happen to your day ever! Everyone on the same page? Excellent!
A virion is a virus particle. That’s not particularly important for you to know, but it should be noted that neither a virus nor a virion contain the enzymes needed to produce life. They only way they can reproduce (and pay attention to this) is to live inside of a host. They naturally walk between that shadowy corridor of life and death. There is a major argument now on if viruses are alive or dead. For the sake of this discussion however we will allow you to make that choice for yourself.
Viruses hangout everywhere 100% of the time. They can enter through the nose, mouth, or tears in the skin. Once inside they find a host cell to infect and begin their lytic cycle.
- Attach to some poor unsuspecting host’s cells
- Changes the genetic structure of the cell
- Corrupts and appropriates the cells enzymes
- The enzymes are used to create virions
- The virions assemble into new viruses
- The viruses release from the host cell to spread the infection
All viruses have their own recognition software to find the correct cell to infest. They can either dissolve into the correct cell’s lipids or if they do not locate a proper cell they must still release their content into the host cell. Regardless of which the result is the same. The virus can leave the cells 2 ways:
- They break the host cell open in an all out war called lysis. (Think of a horde of Vikings ransacking and plundering a village…then burning it down before they leave.)
- They create an out growth from the cell and wean themselves off the enzymes. Taking a piece of the host’s membrane with them without destroying the cells. (Think of Vikings locating a bakery inside of the city. Stealing all of the cupcakes, but leaving the bakery there so that it can make more cupcakes!)
Your immune system responds to the infection by creating pyrogens. This causes your body temperature to rise. The fever slows down the rate of viral infection. This continues until the virus is eliminated from your body. Keep in mind your base temperature 98.6F (37C), and that is for most humans. With that level of infection you’re looking at temperatures of 105 degrees and up while your immune system is trying to help your body rid yourself of the virus. Your immune system is in constant Spartan mode to keep your body safe from everything that could harm it.
So what happens when your body does not expel the virus? Well if your body is still burning, and you are still sick it means that the virus is producing faster then the fever can slow it down. This means that the body doesn’t have enough time to expel the virus, and you will remain sick. It is important to note that your immune system shuts down when you do. Once you die, it takes only a matter of weeks before every bacteria, microbe, virus, toxin, and parasite that had been trying to invade your body before the virus took up residence in your cells tries to storm your sacred temple. The new assault on your body systematically tears it apart, as the decay process begins. So if you aren’t drinking green tea, getting that glass of OJ, or having an apple a day, you may wish to start!
Now that we understand how a virus works we can now apply this to the anatomy of infection that is the zombie virus. For simplicity’s sake we call it the Z-Virus. For this scenario we will assume that you are at the top of your game and in peak physical condition. You are religiously reading articles on how to stay healthy and how to survive the apocalypse we know is coming. You are a complete badass at fighting zombies. Even if that is not true yet, we will still pretend it is!
You are battling Zombies a ‘la Daryl Dixon, and you have just completed another day kicking zombie ass and taking names. Just when you are posing coolly against the backdrop of some random setting sun, a zombie catches you by surprise. He takes a sizable chunk out of your arm. If you have been paying attention you know that viruses enter your body through the nose, mouth, or tears in the skin. A chunk torn out of your arm classifies as a tear. As a disclaimer, a normal human mouth has upwards of several million germs and bacteria. Some of them may even be friendly! However a zombie bit you, and you can only imagine what type of bacteria and germs lives in the mouth of a person who is eating other persons. None of it remotely friendly.
Once the zombie takes a piece of you with it. You will need to work fast. You can attempt to cut off your arm, but you will need to do it the moment it happens. None of this drawn out we’ll make it back to the base camp stuff. Once bitten thousands of Z-Viruses have rapidly began to latch onto host cells inside of your circulatory system. The virus may start off a little slow trying to locate the proper host cells, but once they are located they will immediately begin rewriting your cell’s genetic programming to a half alive state. When they are finished taking over the infected cells the Z-virus now starts to create thousands of Z-virions. The virions will begin to assemble into fully structured Z- viruses. Once the incubation period is over they will release out into your blood stream to find more cells to infect. When they leave the cells, the viruses already nestled inside of the host cell will either ravage the cell apart, or create another home using the original cell’s genetic material.
Your immune system has started to produce as many pyrogens as it can to ward off the invading infection. Unfortunately your immune system is so busy trying to burn the invading virus into a sloth like state, that it doesn’t have time to keep the other parasites and bacteria that are normally attacking your body on a good day at bay any longer. So your flesh begins to rot and sores break out over your skin due to your immune’s system’s inability to multitask beneath that level of viral warfare.
By the time you have made peace with becoming the undead. The virus has spread out from the point of entry to the rest of your body. It has pulled the plugs from the wall by disabling your nervous system, and has begun shutting down the hard drive in your computer called your brain. However it doesn’t damage all of the brain. The virus knows that if it shuts you down completely it will also die, or have to start the process of finding a new host all over again. So the Z-virus leaves the parts of the body that keep it functioning on it’s most primal level in the same half alive stage the virus survived in before it found you as its host. Keeping the body in a sort of life or death point of stasis so that it does not have to find a new home.
The desire that the zombie has to eat brains is the immune system crying out for a new system control, so that it can reset its self. The virus doesn’t care because in the immune system’s pursuit of a new program it allows the replicating viruses to locate a new home to keep up with the growing demand of cellular real estate that the rapidly replicating viruses demand.
So in the end when your loved one has been bitten, and you are faced with the choice of putting them down. Just know that once the first utterance of brains has left his/her lips there is no one home. They are not the person you know, and it is pretty doubtful that they still have a soul. Viruses don’t need souls to replicate.