It might not seem like things could get any worse, but as the group found out in this week's episode, "Infected," the zombie pandemic virus isn't the only killer pathogen out there. We know from all-too-real examples that one disaster often breeds another. In the real world, an ongoing cholera outbreak is plaguing Haiti. After the 2010 earthquake, United Nations troops inadvertently introduced the pathogen, and the country lost much of its health infrastructure during the earthquake. The HIV pandemic has exacerbated other infectious diseases, such as multidrug resistant tuberculosis, particularly in Africa. Wars and their resulting refugee camps are breeding grounds for a multitude of infectious diseases, including deadly respiratory and diarrheal infections. As routine vaccination programs lapse in disaster areas, killers such as measles, tetanus and polio can make a resurgence.
The principle that disaster breeds disaster is what our long-suffering group discovered on Sunday's episode. In the midst of the infectious zombie pandemic, another killer germ arose, quickly leading to the death of new character Patrick in a rather gruesome manner. The new virus seems to be influenza (and probably swine influenza). Hershel, a veterinarian, notes that influenza can be transmitted to humans from pigs and birds - it's a zoonotic infection. Rick adds that he saw a sick boar during a prior excursion in the woods and that he saw other zombies along the fence outside their prison home that resembled the recently reanimated Patrick: trailing blood from their eyes, nose and lips. Another character, Dr. Subramanian, explains that this is due to pressure building up in the lungs from the infection, and then it's "like you shake a soda can and pop the top, only your eyes, ears, nose, and throat are the top."
Could such a diagnosis be made in the middle of an apocalypse?