I read this question about how relatively weak zombies might cause complete global societal collapse, and an idea popped into my mind.

The zombies I am imagining;

  • They are living humans inflicted with a disease.

  • They can be killed by anything a regular human can.

  • The zombies travel in packs of ten to twenty infected, though they can grow to up to one-thousand strong in rare cases.

  • Opposing zombie packs can either fight each-other or merge into a larger pack. They are lead by the strongest individual.

  • Zombies need sustenance. When no large packs of infected are around and when no humans are around they will search for water and food and shelter.

  • Can use basic tools such as door handles and crowbars

About the virus;

  • The virus can be spread by infecting rats (and any other rodents) who later become rabid and swarm uninfected. Raccoons, opossums, and most marsupials are able to catch and transmit the virus as well as pigs and apes/chimps/monkeys. Other animals are not able to become infected.

  • The virus is blood-borne, and saliva-borne, meaning bites will transmit the infection as well as getting infected blood in your body.

  • Once someone is infected, that person has 24-96 hours until "transformation." The first 75% of this time you experience no symptoms. Then a fever sets in and you have pounding headaches for the final 25% before you pass out and reawaken as a "zombie."

  • The zombie virus kills any and all disease-causing organisms in the body.

I ask, would the virus spread in small towns in central and southern United States as quickly as in the cities? I imagine that the virus would mainly affect the big cities before groups of infected wander into the countryside. How towns handle the infected would vary. Some might try to treat them, and these towns would be the first to go. Beleaguered military divisions and routed National Guard units would likely fall back into the country as well, undoubtedly carrying a few infected soldiers with them.

I ask this because I live in a small town in southern Illinois called Iuka, and just about everyone here owns a gun. There are literally ten year olds who have guns. Outside the town there are dozens of farmers, and each one probably has enough rifles and hand guns to supply a small army. In the city this would never happen.

The sheer number of people in cities means laws must be in place to heavily regulate the ownership of deadly weapons. In small towns, it seems these laws do not exist, or, at the very least, are not enforced. I personally think my town is ready to take out swarms of rabid raccoons, opossums, and rats. God knows we have enough ammo to pump every animal in the region full of lead a few times over.

Would the time allotted to small towns1 make any real difference in their fate?

How would the limited social structure of my zombies affect the ability of small towns to resist?

1 Of course, some towns would fall as infected people fled the cities, but I am assuming most towns would have a decent chance to prepare as opposed to the cities.

  • $\begingroup$ "God knows we have enough ammo to pump every animal in the region full of lead a few times over." <- Priceless. $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 10, 2016 at 16:35
  • $\begingroup$ What is the infection ratio? Are there immune? Is there a chance that you may survive a zombie bite? $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2016 at 4:49
  • $\begingroup$ @XandarTheZenon Less than 1% of the population is immune and would survive a zombie bite (then again, if a single zombie is close enough to bite you, chances are high that multiple zombies are biting you - an experience you are much less likely to survive). The chances of being immine are pretty slim - you probably have a better chance of winning the lottery. Generally you will "turn" quicker if the infection enters an artery, as opposed to getting a drop of blood in your mouth. $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Mar 11, 2016 at 13:58
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ Well, if I'm not immune to the virus, I claim impunity for starting it. Anyway, I'm going to go build a walled city next to a spring in the middle of the desert. $\endgroup$ Mar 11, 2016 at 14:24

3 Answers 3


There's two main category of issues when discussing this situation:

Can they get organized?

"Small-town America" is a lot more self sustaining than city folk are, and a lot more prepared to survive. However, these people are going to have to form a unified front against not only the incoming zombie hordes, but also the fleeing survivors.

Issues such as: do we help outsiders, do we share food/guns/ammo/fuel, do we provide shelter, do we defend others, how do we deal with potential infected, etc. will be very divisive.

Will those people come together as a community and help each other out, or will half of them barricade themselves in their homes and shoot anyone who gets close, while the other half try to help everyone who arrives into town, only to be taken advantage of by opportunists, or simply overrun by zombies?

A lot of towns will fail to find the appropriate balance and simply go under.

When civilization collapses people need a clear authority figure to impose law and order in the area.

With the survivors themselves posing a threat, never mind the zombies, what sort of leader you get is going to be one of the main deciding factors.

An impulsive and rude leader would probably polarize the community and influence their destruction.

A sensible human being will realize that everyone can't just go off on their own. That certain farms and outlying homesteads have to abandoned, resources pooled and policed, that not everyone who needs their help is worth saving, etc.

The virus itself

Now on top of those issues you have to deal with the virus itself. A lot of townsfolk - even some of the ones with key skills and knowledge - are going to get sick. If the virus is as infectious and easy to spread as what that original question seems to imply, then really, these towns may not have a chance anyway.

Frankly, the survival rate of the virus is going to be the deciding factor in whether all those other issues even come into play.


Realistically, the best way for these folks to survive is to "retreat" to a defensible position, and hold what they've got. This might be a particularly isolated estate with clear fields of fire, a local prison, or simply the "town center" (with all approaches barricaded, manned, and patrolled).

They can probably grow food in the outlying fields, and will have some local manufacturing capabilities.

However, they will lose people to the virus. They would do well to keep an eye out for survivors who are immune and can be integrated into their group, while rejecting those who seek a free handout/ride.

  • $\begingroup$ I think the rabid animal angle needs to be addressed. In a small central/southern town, there's a lot more exposure to the wilds. $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2016 at 18:00
  • $\begingroup$ @Axelrod - the problem is that the original zombie question OP never defined the characteristics of the virus and how it spreads. He also doesn't define the survival rates once infected, etc. There's simply not enough to work with, which is why I deal with it in such broad concepts $\endgroup$
    – AndreiROM
    Mar 10, 2016 at 18:17
  • $\begingroup$ Well it's addressed now (I assume no % survival rate mentioned means it's meant to be 100% effective, as per the zombie apocalypse cliché). And add a picture with hand-drawn circles! $\endgroup$ Mar 10, 2016 at 19:34
  • $\begingroup$ @AndreiROM Well, you could have asked in the comments. I was assuming that survival rates in any zombie apocalypse virus are, or are so close to 0% that it does not really matter. It spreads by blood and bite, and fleas can transmit the virus from rats to people (assuming the rabid rats did not do that first). $\endgroup$
    – Jax
    Mar 11, 2016 at 14:20

I am not certain but I'm pretty sure you will either be infected or die from starvation, disease, lack of water or other such fatal conditions.


Many towns will probably go down to the zombies as humans will probably flee the cities bringing the virus with them. Any town that accepts refugees from the cities will be infected and will fall. Other towns might refuse to let anyone in and kill anyone who tries. These towns may stop the virus but it is more likely that a few rats will sneak in and start infecting humans.

Other deaths

Even if you keep out the infected you will have no electricity as power stations go down with no one to run/maintain them. You will have only the food you can grow, and you have to grow it without fuel or piped in water. The only water you have is water from water towers. On top of this any water pipes and sewage pipes will have to be blocked to prevent rats getting in. Eventually the population will drop too low to effectively prevent zombies from getting in and the zombies will break in and kill anyone left.

  • $\begingroup$ I agree, the virus spreading from rodents would be a far more serious issue than human zombies. The rodents would be attracted to the food in the small towns, and really only towns in terrain that inhibit migration of the rodents could be safe (desert or frozen tundra climates). $\endgroup$
    – Phil M
    Nov 23, 2016 at 16:32

With minor deviations, you've just described rabies, and rabies hasn't destroyed the world yet.

The transmission behavior matches rabies almost exactly, except for the incubation period (usually 1-3 months according to Wikipedia).

Rabies doesn't include pack behavior, and replaces the urge to bite people with general violent urges. However, to include pack behavior you need a pack, and I'm not convinced your zombies would ever reach those numbers.

Zombism is enough like rabies that people will mistake it for rabies. Which is good, because the typical handling of a rabies outbreak (Don't get near, don't get bit, don't expect a rational response or a recovery) are excellent methods for dealing with a zombie outbreak.

You might argue that we're more at risk from a zombie outbreak than from a rabies outbreak because there is a rabies vaccine but not zombie vaccine. But the rabies vaccine has only existed for a century and a half, and rabid animals hadn't taken over the world in the meantime.

Blood and saliva borne transmission vectors are really terrible ways for a disease to spread.

  • $\begingroup$ Rats and mice don't get (or at least don't transmit) rabies. It isn't the raccoons being slightly more aggressive than normal which are a threat, it is all the rats and mice hunting you down which will be the only significant threat. You cannot get away from rodents in any kind of urban area - rodents actively trying to track down and bite people will be an enormous change and spread the disease. It is that behavior change in rodents that represents the true threat. $\endgroup$ Dec 28, 2018 at 15:35

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