In Jonathan Maberry’s nonfiction book Zombie CSU, Dr. Natalie Mtumbo of the World Health Organization suggests that the living zombies in 28 Days Later are in many ways less realistic than George Romero’s classic undead zombies. Dr. Mtumbo explains that a disease spreading instantly through the body goes against everything we know about the rules of pathology.
Echoing this point, neurologist Peter Lukacs explains:
“Every disease has an incubation period where the patient is asymptomatic. Even the common cold takes two to three days before making the infected person sick.”
So how long is the zombie incubation period? That’s the million dollar question.
Imagine if it isn’t several minutes or hours as suggested in popular fiction and film? What if it’s weeks, months, or even years? What if the infection has already spread, living in hosts all across the world, undetected? Waiting to be triggered by a specific strain of the flu, or some other seemingly harmless illness. Biding its time, infecting new hosts every day–your neighbor, coworker, or sibling.
If that’s the case, then the next great zombie pandemic may already be upon us. We just don’t know it yet.