The Walking Dead Theory: Enter: The Flu

Vincent Martella as Patrick, The Walking Dead -- AMC
Vincent Martella as Patrick, The Walking Dead -- AMC /

The cause of the zombie apocalypse in The Walking Dead has been a mystery from the start, but, have we known…and just not realized it?

It is probably the single biggest mystery of The Walking Dead and Fear The Walking Dead: How did the zombie apocalypse start?

When The Walking Dead begins, we get no indication that anything untoward is going on, though, Dr. Jenner saying (At the time of his recording) that it’d been 194 days since “Wildfire” (i.e. The Zombie Virus) began, suggests that more may have been going on than what we saw: Rick and Shane just stop some car thieves, Rick gets shot, ends up in a coma, Shane has to leave him at the hospital, the end.

The mystery continues as Rick wakes up: He gets no indication of what happened at the hospital, outside of a lot of people being killed and the military having to abandon their would-be safe zone, furthermore, while Rick gets a rundown of what happened from Morgan, he doesn’t know how it started, either!

Dr. Edwin Jenner, The Walking Dead -AMC
Noah Emmerich as Dr. Edwin Jenner, The Walking Dead -AMC /

We get some idea of what’s going on when Dr. Jenner explains to The Group what he knows about how the disease effects the brain, and from his recordings, but, even then, we don’t get any idea of how it started, largely because…Dr. Jenner doesn’t know.

He’s able to provide The Group with some extremely helpful and pertinent information (Especially to Rick), but, none of it involves how the zombie apocalypse got started.

This is where we come in.

Now, let’s think about this for a minute: In order to find the culprit behind the zombie apocalypse, we need to find a disease that can A) affect everyone, regardless of whether or not they’ve been bitten by a zombie, B) something that can kill its victims and thus create the first zombie, and C) something that was around when the apocalypse began.

Enter: The Flu.

“Wait, what? The Flu? What does that have to do with this?”


A bloodied-eyed flu walker, The Walking Dead -- AMC
A bloodied-eyed flu walker, The Walking Dead — AMC /

As season four (The marathon of which inspired me to write this in the first place) begins, Rick happens to see a walker with bleeding eyes, something, up to this point, he’d never seen before.

It doesn’t take long before the prison is ravaged by a particularly nasty strain of the virus, killing many of the refugees The Group had taken in after defeating The Governor in season three.

Not only that, but, as Daryl, Michonne, Tyreese, and Bob attempt to investigate the nearby veterinary college, they discover that survivors who had been living there also became infected, as the dozens of walkers there all shared the same bloody eyes.

Vincent Martella as Patrick, The Walking Dead -- AMC
Vincent Martella as Patrick, The Walking Dead — AMC /

But, we’re getting ahead of ourselves…

The Flu seems to cause nausea, coughing fits, and finally, high fever, which, by all appearances, is what eventually kills the infected before they inevitably turn into a walker.

If that last part sounds familiar to you, it’s because it’s exactly what Morgan told Rick about what the zombie virus did to people!

If nothing else, this certainly gives us a candidate for a disease which has the same killer fever Morgan described and is something that infects people without them having to be bitten by a zombie to contract it.

Granted, Morgan’s description seemed to indicate the disease started with the bites, but, let’s be honest, there had to be some disease that caused its victim to turn into the first walker, and I believe this strain of The Flu to be it.

“But, in order for this to be the same disease, there would have to be a flu outbreak to BEGIN WITH!” You might exclaim.

“Oh, but, wasn’t there?!” I would exclaim back.

Kids in masks, Fear The Walking Dead - AMC
Kids in masks, Fear The Walking Dead – AMC /

You may recall, in one of the very first trailers for Fear The Walking Dead, you can hear over the radio that there seems to be flu outbreak hitting the city of Los Angeles, as well as in four other states outside of California (Though we never find out which). In fact, when Madison first arrives at school, Principal Artie mentions how many kids seemed to have called in sick with The Flu that very day.

Here is our connection: Just before the outbreak (And, presumably, the rapid growth of the disease) began, there is a sudden bout of The Flu hitting California and four other states (Which, incidentally, matches up with Tobias’ research, wherein he discovers mysterious deaths going in in five states. Gee, isn’t that odd?).

It is my belief that The Flu we see in season four, which decimates the prison, is the same flu we hear about in the beginning of Fear The Walking Dead.

“But, how can that be? Why wasn’t it killing EVERYBODY?” You might ask.

Well, the fact is, The Flu is a pretty adaptable disease, and different or mutated strains of it have been known to absolutely wreak havoc on us, even while more familiar strains leave us largely unscathed.

Look at Spanish Flu, for instance, which killed more people during World War I than machine guns! This especially virulent strain of the virus wiped out millions of people in 1918, more so than any strain of flu had prior.

Melissa Ponzio as Karen, Chad L. Coleman as Tyreese, The Walking Dead -- AMC
Melissa Ponzio as Karen, Chad L. Coleman as Tyreese, The Walking Dead — AMC /

And, while some people may have had strong enough immune systems at the beginning of the zombie apocalypse to prevent themselves from dying of the original zombie flu, it’s entirely possible that the virus mutated and opened itself up to infect even more people as the apocalypse went into full effect!

And, with The Flu’s natural tendency to spread via the air, it would certainly make itself available to at least infect the entirety of the human population, even if it couldn’t kill them all.

Next: Fear The Walking Dead Theory: Zombabies?

But, I doubt we’ll ever be told exactly how the zombie virus came into existence on either The Walking Dead or Fear The Walking Dead. While I would certainly be interested, I fear that removing that mystery would suck some of the fun out the shows, like finding out about midichlorians in the Star Wars prequels.

Well, whether we do or we don’t, that was my latest The Walking Dead Theory. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me know! And, if you like this and want to read more of my writings, specifically about how to survive a zombie apocalypse, why not pick up a copy of my book, The Rules: A Guide To Surviving The Zombie Apocalypse! You can get it on Kindle here and on iTunes here!