Okay at some point we have to find ourselves constrained by mathematics and natural law if we are to keep things on the tracks, so I am going to ask what to me is the central question of the entire zombie world scenario. We are talking about a world where live humans have become scarce, and hard to get at. Now, walkers are dead. No viable biological systems. They can tear flesh with their teeth, and possibly swallow it, but with no circulatory, respiratory, or gastrointestinal systems, they cannot process it into nutrients. Likewise they have no biological ability to hydrate their tissues by drinking water, or regulate their temperature by sweating. If they had these abilities it mandates intact organ systems which would be vulnerable to injury like any human. Even if they do not decompose normally they must eventually dehydrate, mummify, and become immobile. Simply, they must have a limit on how long they can remain viable. Given this there would have to be a time when more zombies were grinding to a halt than humans being infected, and their numbers would begin to dwindle.
Runners are alive, and have functional organs, but they have all the functional vulnerability of any human being. If they do not drink water their kidneys must shut down in a matter of days. If they do not eat they will eventually starve. They are subject to freezing, heat stroke, and traumatic injury of all kinds. If they die they may well reanimate as walkers, but while they are living human victims of a disease they have all the limitations of that condition no matter how fast they can run. They do not have the mental acuity to open cans, or access preserved food, and they are assumed to feed on uninfected flesh exclusively. They are subject to die or be killed by anything that will do in a live human being. With no food source, debilitated by the viral infection, they would have a life span comparable to a profoundly retarded person left on the street during a famine. For them to turn on each other would cause their numbers to drop even faster.
Given all this then let me ask the question,"Will a Zombie, without access to prey, eventually become non viable (dead), and how long could we reasonably expect this to take?"
I love this discussion, but it is critical to understanding (and surviving) any sort of zombie outbreak.
Both scenarios are viable, but we also have to take into account a VIRUS that lives off the flesh. How long would THAT take before it was done feeding off the human's tissue and reanimating the corpse?
To your original question, it takes a human body a year (exposed to air) to completely decompose. However, a person in vegetative state that does not get food dies within 2 weeks, but a living person could survive up to a few months without absolutely NO food.
So.. if you take into account that not everyone will zombify at the same time, we could be looking a zombie outbreak that could last 2-5 years!
Thank you for your thoughtful response and I agree that a virus could remain active either in human tissue or even on infected objects and surfaces for long periods. Flare ups of infection would be expected, and in fact the Black plague was not an event but a series of events that took place over decades, and still occurs today. As you point out humans can last long periods without food, but they never last without water, which requires intact organic systems to process. Still even at your projected two to five years, allowing for an initial large number of Zombies during the first epidemic burn through, dwindling to hot zones and periodic flare ups, it would seem to be a better strategy to fortify and wait for the zombies to die than to go out and try and exterminate them. Again thank you for your thoughts.
The one thing you miss is that you think your dealing with something normal and, its anything but that. Although the husk itself was once a human, thats the only thing it shares with its undead host. Figuratively speaking, if you decapitate the host, the head will still come after you. The motivation is not to eat but, to spread. This being said, the infected husk can and will slow and even stop in an effort to wait out its prey. Much like a vampire goes into a state of torpor or, hibernation. The zombie will simply slow to a halt and wait. The rotting and decomposition will essentially stop altogether and that husk of "beef jerky" will camp outside your door until you come out. As long as the brain remains intact the engine of death is still running. It does not matter if this happens in Alaska or Mexico, freeze it or boil it, that "dog" will bite you. Always, aim for the head or you will be dead.
Sorry, but you don't get it both ways. I have no idea how a head comes after you, or how a creature made of jerky moves anyplace, as it cannot contract it's muscles to move the skeleton, unless of course you are suggesting magic, and that is of course the big question. Some place along the line you have to decide on whether magic plays a part in this. And once you go supernatural you can forget any rules or timelines. You can forget about guns, knives, or any hope of a successful defense. Get a Ouija board and a book of spells and roll those six sided hit dice because that's where you are. Back in Mom's basement playing D&D.
A zombie is a virus animated human cadaver. It can only operate within those limits unless you want to play the magic card. So, is that what you intend? Magic? Because if it is I would have to say we aren't even talking about the same world.
Okay, my young Jedi. You now have two ICU nurses, a doctor, and me attempting to answer your question, as I happen to be at work. Typically a virus is an organic entity that assembles itself inside a cell, and then proceedes to replicate itself until it can penetrate and attack another cell. In the process it can change the function of the cell, or even shut it down. Now cells, are the smallest, most basic form of life, they have their own metabolism, and they live, reproduce by cellular division, and eventually they die. A zombie virus, would have to change cells on an individual level to reanimate after the death of the organism to which they belong, and continue to function in the absence of the organic systems needed to bring them nutrients, and oxygen. There is no known process by which this can occur, but then if we had been able to identify the process we could have cured the disease. This is why we are participating in a fiction. We have to be willing to suspend our disbelief and say, "Okay, Campion's can do this and that and we aren't sure how." Maybe that's what we are trying to do, is find out a way to find out how.
Okay, and really if we didn't already have the stated timeline and the Campion virus, a parasitic life form of unknown origin could work well. Much better than a virus actually. The thing is viruses don't need anything from the host cells except a place to reproduce. My point here is that if we are to actually evaluate the walkers and runners as a real enemy, and attempt a real defense, we need to know what they are and what they can do. It doesn't help us when we have built a 12 foot fence around our projected safe area and then somebody posts a video about zombies flying or using a ladder. Are they dead or alive? Do they freeze? Can they starve or die of thirst? How long and how far can they walk? Do they drink water? These are all things that if I am attempting to survive in a world filled with zombies I would be absolutely nailing down. In irregular warfare where the enemy has an advantage in number and combat power your knowledge of an enemy and an ability to exploit his weaknesses are all you have.