Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Walking Dead Biology Fail

This concerns events in "the walking dead" season 4 and features one of my most loathed and prevalent false science assumptions.
There has been an outbreak of a virus in the show killing lots of their community. The solution - go get some antibiotics. The problem with this plan is that


If they had a bacterial infection then antibiotics would be a great idea. If this flu-like virus was taking a while to kill them then there's a chance that a secondary infection caused by a bacteria could be causing pneumonia, in which case bring on the antibiotics. This TV virus seems to kill within 24 hours though with your head essentially erupting with blood so I think the cause is due to the virus.

What they need are antivirals but to be blunt the best course of action for the group is to avoid infection by quarantine. If they knew what the virus was they could take a vaccine for it but that's only useful before you become infected. The Herschel character is actually doing more to save the infected's lives by placing a wet towel on their foreheads than the antibiotic salvaging team.

Of course it's always a good idea to have some antibiotics on hand for those bacterial infections. Given their living conditions, Cholera and pneumonia are definitely threats and given the violent nature of the show, something to prevent septicaemia from all the wounds they sustain would be handy.

I realise this is a show in which the dead come back to life and I should suspend disbelief but this is such a common biology fail that I won't let it pass. It's also annoying because it results in people taking antibiotics for no good reason which ultimately reduces the longevity of the antibiotic being useful at what it actually works on. Given the shows ratings they could illuminate a few people as there are at least three characters in the show with medical training who should know better. If the show only had non-biologists as characters then I guess I could accept the "ohs nos, why aren't the antibiotics working" as accurate.

I guess I need to prepare myself for the possibility that this storyline will conclude with the virus being cured by the antibiotics...

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