Straight Dope Message Board

Straight Dope Message Board (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/index.php)
-   In My Humble Opinion (IMHO) (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/forumdisplay.php?f=12)
-   -   Zombie Bite - Would Amputation Work? (https://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/showthread.php?t=681126)

Atakapa 02-02-2013 11:09 PM

Zombie Bite - Would Amputation Work?
 
It's a common trope in zombie films to have a character with a bite wound perform an emergency amputation of the limb, and have a chance at survival. However, when I was anesthetized for an operation I felt the numbness creep up my arm quite rapidly. Within 10 seconds, it had gone from my wrist to my shoulder, and I lost consciousness by the 20 second mark. Would a pathogen be carried at a similar speed? What about a glancing surface cut that contaminates small capillaries vs one that hits an artery or large vessel?

Colibri 02-02-2013 11:28 PM

Moved to IMHO from GQ.

Colibri
General Questions Moderator

Der Trihs 02-02-2013 11:38 PM

It depends on the nature of the fictional pathogen. Something that's carried by blood would be everywhere in seconds, so amputation is useless. Something that travels up the nerves to the brain on the other hand could potentially be stopped by amputation; I recall reading that rabies can be theoretically* stopped that way, if it's a limb that is bitten.

*The problem being that we have better methods these days, and even if we didn't, unless you know the person is infected you'd risk cutting off a limb for nothing.

AaronX 02-03-2013 07:08 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Der Trihs (Post 15965455)
Something that's carried by blood would be everywhere in seconds, so amputation is useless. Something that travels up the nerves to the brain on the other hand could potentially be stopped by amputation;

Is that true? Even snake venom doesn't work that fast, and it's in their interest for venom to work fast. Also, what can travel up the nerves, other than nerve signals?

Mr. Kobayashi 02-03-2013 07:28 AM

In Max Brook's seminal zombie survival guide he says that immediate amputation of a bitten extremity has (IIRC) a 10% chance of success.

In the Walking Dead universe it's pretty effective in the TV series;
SPOILER:
Hershel is bitten in the ankle and has his leg immediately amputated by Rick with an axe...which he has been using as an weapon against zombies. Hmmm. Anyway, he passes out but survives.


In the Walking Dead video game you can choose to
SPOILER:
cut off your forearm after being bitten in the wrist. However some time has lapsed between the bite and amputation, so it doesn't work. The main difference though is that you don't black out as much if you amputate the arm. You also encounter a zombie with one arm so you're not the only one to try it and fail.

Atakapa 02-03-2013 09:43 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AaronX (Post 15965793)
Is that true? Even snake venom doesn't work that fast, and it's in their interest for venom to work fast. Also, what can travel up the nerves, other than nerve signals?

Perhaps it depends on the depth and location? I was injected directly in a large vein, so the anesthetics were carried through the body rapidly. Maybe a snake bite doesn't penetrate deep enough to immediately reach the larger vessels.

dogbutler 02-03-2013 10:16 AM

Need answers fast?:eek:

In Day of The Dead, it seemed to work, or at least slow the spread(The amputee seemed in better health than most bitees when he was the buffet on the elevator.)

alphaboi867 02-03-2013 12:32 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by dogbutler (Post 15966112)
Need answers fast?:eek:

In Day of The Dead, it seemed to work, or at least slow the spread(The amputee seemed in better health than most bitees when he was the buffet on the elevator.)

The infection travels at the speed of plot. In Dawn of the Dead Roger lasts days after being bite; in Karen from Nigh of the Living Dead lasted only a few hours. Of course one was a child and the other a grown man.

Der Trihs 02-03-2013 02:28 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by AaronX (Post 15965793)
Is that true? Even snake venom doesn't work that fast, and it's in their interest for venom to work fast.

Well, I just threw out "seconds" as a rough estimate due to the fact that blood is moving. That said, venom also needs time to physically act on its target; I was speaking merely on how fast it would take contamination to spread throughout the bloodstream, not how fast it would take to actually work.

Quote:

Originally Posted by AaronX (Post 15965793)
Also, what can travel up the nerves, other than nerve signals?

Microorganisms.

Czarcasm 02-03-2013 03:45 PM

If it's a disease of the blood, then probably not.
If it's a disease that spreads through skin infection, you might have a chance.
If it's a curse, then you're screwed.

KarlGrenze 02-03-2013 03:52 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Der Trihs (Post 15966822)
Microorganisms.

To give some specific examples: Toxins like tetanus and botulism travel through the nerves, that's how they cause paralysis.

The classic example of a virus that travels through the nerves is rabies virus.

A classic example of a bacteria that hitchhikes through the nerves is Listeria monocytogenes, or the cause of listeriosis.

Trinopus 02-03-2013 08:50 PM

In one of the Corto Maltese stories, a guy is bitten in the upper arm by a venomous snake, and, acting quickly, uses his pistol and blows away a big hunk of the muscle where he was bitten, I guess in the theory that the venom is still all pooled up there.

Would that work? It seems really wrong...


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:00 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2019, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.