Imagine surviving in a modern day densely populated city where there is a recent zombie outbreak...

The cause of infection is identified to be a type of fungi, this fungi contains a unique unknown chemical that can survive in strong acidic environment such as our stomach. The chemical will be easily absorbed into our bloodstream and trigger a nasty response in our nervous system it is also known to evade our immune system completely. The chemical spread via blood vessels and capillaries and it cannot be spread by having a skin contact with an infected person.

This chemical will invade every cells in the host body therefore my question is can I save myself from becoming infected by severing off a limb that is bitten by a zombie?

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    $\begingroup$ It seems that it would depend on how and where the zombie bit you. If it bites you and does not hit a major artery you might have hours or weeks before you feel the effects (leading many to think they are immune). If you are bitten and it gets into an artery you have minutes or less before it spreads to your body. $\endgroup$ – JDSweetBeat May 8 '15 at 13:01

I can't imagine any way this wouldn't work on an "expendable" limb. I think the question truly becomes how fast does it need to be done. If it's spread through the blood, then it's going to come down to how fast your heart is beating and how quickly it spreads. While I couldn't find any hard numbers to go with that statement, I'm sure they're out there. This quote from tvtropes kind of gets the idea across though:

"Sometimes when sucking out the poison isn't enough, someone simply cuts off the limb in question, above the problem. Naturally, this is not recommended in real life as blood flows faster than an arm or leg can be cut off, amputation is dangerous enough as is, and amputation to prevent infections are an old and largely outdated medical practice." - http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/AmputationStopsSpread

Hardly a scientific explanation on the matter, so perhaps someone can go into the details on that. In short though, if you have a tool capable of taking the limb off quickly enough than theoretically sure, you could stop it, it's just unlikely you have such a tool.

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    $\begingroup$ You could sweep that problem under the carpet by saying that the fungus needs a surface to grow on and thus can't simply take a trip through the bloodstream to another part of the body without dying. Thus the fungus would have to "grow" its way out of your arm (producing potentially interesting scenarios of partially infected individuals). $\endgroup$ – Neil May 8 '15 at 12:53
  • $\begingroup$ I agree that it could certainly be interesting, the OP stated, though, that " The chemical spread via blood vessels and capillaries and it cannot be spread by having a skin contact with an infected person." I took that to mean it specifically would not be doing that. Certainly an intriguing path to consider though, the stigma that would be generated toward the partially infected could make for great story dynamics. $\endgroup$ – Michael May 8 '15 at 13:01

For what it's worth:

I don't have a reference, except a description in Jadoo, a book by John Keel. I have no particular reason to think that this book is accurate in any particular - it seems, if I'm recalling it correctly (I read the book a long time ago) to be a sort of hybrid of Baron Munchausen and Aleister Crowley - in other words, largely invented. However: even books of tall tales usually have an underlying layer of accurate observation, upon which the fabrications are built. This bit is more plausible than most.

Keel describes cobra catchers in Egypt carrying straight razors as part of their field kit. In the rare case of an unfortunate accident, they will promptly lop off a finger that gets bitten by the cobra.

This is actually a reasonable proxy for your zombie bite. Cobras have a documented tendency to hang on and chew rather than delivering the lightning strike characteristic of vipers with their more effective hypodermic fangs. From the Fascinating Earth article on the King Cobra:

Scientists estimate that the king cobra, with large poison glands containing highly potent neurotoxic venom, can deliver 120 times the amount of venom needed to kill an adult human. Moreover, to make sure it delivers an ample amount, the king cobra hangs on when it bites, chewing away at the wound so that the venom penetrates.

Again, I don't know whether Keel's account is truthful; but it certainly is plausible.

If cobra catchers really do use emergency amputation to save themselves from the highly toxic venom of cobras, then it would follow that emergency amputation would be a reasonable means of preventing your postulated zombification.


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