Created By: Earnest on December 15, 2011 Last Edited By: Earnest on September 30, 2012

Inevitably Infectious

All it takes is a bite, scratch, or stray drop to infect.

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Trope
This is when wounds caused by an enemy's attacks, no matter how trivial, will always infect the target with The Virus, a Viral Transformation, poison, or outright kill them. This can be a bite, a scratch, ingesting or having some of their "juices" fall in an open wound, or at their most virulent simply by physical contact.

Fighting these enemies usually requires distance weapons, extensive hazmat/combat armor or being extremely quick to dodge. They can still be wrestled without immediate infection, but there's the risk of a stray nibble or scratch. This trait tends to make even fragile Mooks extremely dangerous, and when part of a more dangerous creature's repertoire nearly impossible to fight. For these reasons the protagonist either starts out as or becomes The Immune (or has a huge supply of antidote at the ready).

This is very often a standard part of the Zombie Apocalypse, though Our Zombies Are Different means it's not universal. Some creatures like Werewolves are only capable of this when transformed... and it assumes the victim isn't eaten first.

See also Poisonous Person, who can kill or infect without the need for touching or wounding. The Plaguemaster may have this as an ability, as would their victims. Contrast Touch of Death, a martial arts technique.


Examples:

Comic Books
  • Cutter in ElfQuest becomes feverish and delirious after being bitten by a squirrel. Justified in that he was trying to save it from drowning in a slimy pool of water.

Film
  • Resident Evil. The Red Queen A.I. warns the protagonists about how infectious the zombies are.
Red Queen: Just one bite, one scratch from these creatures is sufficient, and then you become one of them.
  • 28 Days Later. The Rage virus can be passed on by a bite by one of the Infected or a drop of infected blood introduced into the body, e.g. in the eye or by a cut.

Literature
  • With the Darkhounds in The Wheel of Time, a single drop of blood or saliva on the skin is enough to kill without magical healing.
  • Cardinal in The Duchess of Malfi poisons his lover by getting her to kiss his (poisoned) Bible, in possibly the most ridiculous piece of drama ever.
  • Vampires in The Strain turn anyone fed upon, and to add to the fun the parasitic worms coursing through their blood are also capable of burrowing through skin.

Live-Action TV
  • River Song from Doctor Who likes poisonous/hallucinogenic lipstick. The same for John Hart from Torchwood.
  • Get Smart: Doctor Yes has very long poisoned fingernails. Max tricks him into scratching himself on the face.
    • In another Get Smart episode a female KAOS agent has poison lipstick which kills the kissee shortly after contact. Max Subverts her though, by wearing rubber lips which somehow boomerangs the poison back on her.
  • On Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, the Jem'hadar make use of a weapon that prevents blood clotting in damaged tissue when it hits, so even a glancing wound will cause a victim to bleed to death.

Theater
  • Hamlet: Polonius poisons Laertes' sword for a duel Laertes will fight with Hamlet, unknown to Laertes. One scratch and Hamlet will drop dead, although it's not immediate.
    • In the Simpsons version of Hamlet, RosenCarl and GuilderLenny are also dosed with poison in case Hamlet touches one of them. They high five each other and collapse to the ground, dead.

Real Life
  • Komodo dragon saliva works this way. They just need to nibble the victim and then they will follow it, waiting for septic shock to finish the job.

Community Feedback Replies: 25
  • December 15, 2011
    randomsurfer
    • Hamlet: Polonius poisons Laertes' sword for a duel Laertes will fight with Hamlet, unknown to Laertes. One scratch and Hamlet will drop dead, although it's not immediate.
      • In the Simpsons version of Hamlet, RosenCarl and GuilderLenny are also dosed with poison in case Hamlet touches one of them. They high five each other and collapse to the ground, dead.
    • Get Smart: Doctor Yes has very long poisoned fingernails. Max tricks him into scratching himself on the face.
  • December 15, 2011
    LeeM
    Comic Books: Cutter in Elf Quest becomes feverish and delirious after being bitten by a squirrel. Justified in that he was trying to save it from drowning in a slimy pool of water.
  • December 15, 2011
    GKaiser
    On Star Trek Deep Space Nine, the Jem'hadar make use of a weapon that prevents blood clotting in damaged tissue when it hits, so even a glancing wound will cause a victim to bleed to death.
  • December 15, 2011
    Generality
    With the Darkhounds in The Wheel Of Time, a single drop of blood or saliva on the skin is enough to kill without magical healing.
  • December 15, 2011
    metaphysician
    Is the emphasis in this trope on the ability to infect, or on the *rate* ( 100% ) of infection? I think it would work better as the latter.
  • December 15, 2011
    Earnest
    The latter, yeah. Infecting others is already the hat of the Plaguemaster and Poisonous Person among others, that any such contact is 100% infectious would be this trope.
  • December 16, 2011
    Arivne
    Film
    • Resident Evil. The Red Queen AI warns the protagonists about how infectious the zombies are.
    Red Queen: Just one bite, one scratch from these creatures is sufficient, and then you become one of them.
    • Twenty Eight Days Later. The Rage virus can be passed on by a bite by one of the Infected or a drop of infected blood introduced into the body, e.g. in the eye or by a cut in the skin.
  • December 16, 2011
    Shnakepup
    I know the title is alliterative and all, but it comes off as clunky (at least to me). Maybe call it Extreme Communicability or Extreme Infectivity?
  • December 16, 2011
    ParadiscaCorbasi
    Just Inevitably Infectious would lower the clunkiness.
  • December 16, 2011
    Shnakepup
    That sounds better, yeah.
  • December 16, 2011
    Mozgwsloiku
    Komodo dragon saliva works this way. They just need to nibble the victim and then they will follow it, waiting for septic shock to finish the job.
  • December 17, 2011
    metaphysician
    Hmm, would treatment options be relevant for this trope? As in, does it matter if the infection is treatable or not?
  • December 17, 2011
    Loquacia
    River Song from Doctor Who likes poisonous/hallucinogenic lipstick. The same for John Hart from Torchwood.

    Cardinal in The Duchess of Malfi poisons his lover by getting her to kiss his (poisoned) Bible, in possibly the most ridiculous piece of drama ever.
  • December 17, 2011
    Earnest
    ^^ I don't think treatment options would avert or subvert the trope. There being a vaccine that makes you immune would probably do it, though.
  • December 17, 2011
    randomsurfer
    In another Get Smart episode a female KAOS agent has poison lipstick which kills the kissee shortly after contact. Max Subverts her though, by wearing rubber lips which somehow boomerangs the poison back on her.
  • December 22, 2011
    Abodos
    Vampire and werewolf bites always spread their curse to the victim. Except in works which try to find some sort of scientific explanation for vampirism and lycanthropy, this is because the curse comes from magic, meaning that the mechanics of real life viral transmission don't apply.
  • December 22, 2011
    HandsomeRob
    This also applies to run of the mill Zombie bites.
  • March 22, 2012
    captainsandwich
    Injuries you would under normal circumstances find trivial (lets say a tiny cut) can easily get infected in a jungle.
  • March 22, 2012
    AmbystomaMaculatum
    Another Doctor Who example:

    In "The Waters of Mars", anyone who touches just one infected drop of water is doomed to become one of the episode's monsters - creepy, water-spewing zombies
  • March 22, 2012
    Stratadrake
    The only problem I have with the word "infectious" is that, while it's not an incorrect term to use, it more often means "able to spread".
  • March 23, 2012
    aurora369
    There are poison frogs in Real Life that can kill anyone who simply touches them.
  • March 23, 2012
    TheNinth
    ^^ Inevitably Infecting?
  • March 23, 2012
    Stratadrake
  • March 24, 2012
    Arivne
    Film
    • The Thing. If even a single Thing cell entered a human's body it would eventually take over the whole body and turn the person into a Thing. The claw/scratch conversion happened to Windows. After the Palmer!Thing attacked him he started to convert into a Thing and had to be burned.
  • September 30, 2012
    aurora369
    Real Life: giant hogweed, an invasive Old World weed with a sap that works like a contact blister agent. If it starts growing in your garden, you gotta have some really dense clothing (or, better, full NBC gear) to weed it out and not be poisoned.
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