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Zombie infection is a serious issue, being that it means your soon and untimely demise. It's quite different from regular infection, caused by open wound, flu or food poisoning.
The game will never outright tell you that you are infected, you will instead receive two moodles - of Pain (immediately) and of Sick (after 0-48 hours) after a physical damage carried out from contact with the Zombie. The progressing Sick moodle, increasing Pain and decreasing Health are a giveaway for progressing zombie infection.
Zombie infection can be started by one of the following:
- Getting bitten by a zombie.
- Receiving a scratch by a zombie.
Although in-game radio and TV mention zombie infection to also spread over the air without direct fluid contact, the character is lucky to be one of the few immune to this distribution method.
Getting bitten has originally 100% chance (since [Version_history#0.1.4.3F|update 0.1.4a]]) of you being infected by a zombie infection, but later possibly modified to unknown value (since update 0.1.4?). Majority of players claim it to be around 96%. There are no known and validated characters, who survived the zombie bite - but some claim to have survived. There is no exact official developer response regarding the chance.
Getting scratched by a zombie has a 25% chance of receiving the zombie infection, but may be as well slightly modified since version 0.1.4?. To put the chance on the scale of things, scratches are more dangerous than playing a classic Russian Roulette.
This section is likely to contain major spoilers pertaining to the story of Project Zomboid.
From the partially open game code is seen that the bite and infection are handled separately: infection is internally a non-lethal wound infection and zombie infection is a bite. The file ISHealthPanel.lua references two internal functions: bodyPart:bitten() returning a boolean value and bodyPart:getBiteTime() which returns integer value. There are no known open functions that return the chance or probability to survive the bite, thus the bite is highly probable to be fatal.
Having the Pain or Sick moodles or decreasing Health alone does not necessary mean you are zombie-infected though:
- Deep infected wounds or serious flu may start to slowly drain you health, but it can be compensated and overcome by staying well-fed, performing the wound disinfection and/or stitching, removing the glass fragments from the wound and having plenty of sleep. Eventually the Health will stop draining and condition will improve.
- Cleaning the wound with alcohol or disinfectant, stitching the wound also cause temporary pain.
- The regular flu by being too long out in the rain causes Sick moodle.
True zombie infection will not stop draining health and will continuously intensify over time. There is currently no chance to cure the infection and no known survivors of the bite.
The hypochondriac trait will cause the player to occasionally get the symptoms of the zombie infection after receiving a scratch, without actually being infected. However, as the player's "fake infection" reaches critical levels, the player will seem to be "cured" and will regain health.