Bloodied, corroded, and teeming with infection from tiny cuts and lacerations, the hands and fingers of the undead are almost as lethal as its teeth. Often overlooked, the digits on a ghoul’s hands are a leading cause of human infection; second only to that of a bite. It is for this reason that close combat with a ghoul has an extremely high probability of infection, even if the human avoids being bitten. A single scratch that comes in contact with undead fluids will ultimately result in infection, death and reanimation, albeit at a slower rate than from a more pronounced wound. For this reason, female zombies can be as dangerous, if not more so, than males. Long, polished fingernails, like the claws of a feral animal, can easily tear into flesh, potentially causing infection.
The grip of a zombie is another commonly misunderstood element of its attack. Victims who have survived the clutches of the living dead have described their attacker having a “vice-like grip” of seemingly superhuman strength. Does this mean that a zombie’s strength is greater than that of a normal human? Studies that have measured the pound-for-pound compressive strength of the undead have found that, like its bite, a zombie’s grip is no greater or more powerful than that of its average human counterpart.
There is, however, one difference in undead physiology that may explain this phenomenon. The muscles in our hands and forearms behave like all fast-twitch muscle fibers in the body – they contract powerfully but quickly fatigue, causing our grip to eventually fail. In the living dead, these same muscle fibers contract, but do not fatigue, and will continue to grip with the same level of intensity and power as when first grasped. In greater numbers, this grip becomes even more lethal. Anecdotal records show that as few as three zombies can pull a human being limb from limb in a matter of minutes.
The bite is the primary mode of attack for the living dead. As research has discovered, the teeth of a zombie are not anatomically identical to those of its formerly human self (see Combat Reports, Joseph Gartner.)
It is for this reason that a zombie showing considerable decomposition throughout the rest of its physical structure after years of weathering will still have most of its teeth intact. Analysis has shown, however, that the bite strength of the zombie is approximate to that of a normal human being – 170 pounds of pressure per square inch. Attempts at developing chemical or biological weapons to specifically address the zombie’s primary attack method have thus far been unsuccessful.
As such, the mouth of a zombie is clearly its most dangerous asset. Once within an effective attack range, a ghoul will attempt to bite any human flesh in closest proximity to its open maw. Any bite from a zombie that pierces human flesh, regardless of size or lethality, is a mortal wound, and will result in infection, death, and eventual reanimation into a member of the living dead.
There is a common misconception that the walking dead are only interested in devouring tissue originating from the human brain. This is inaccurate. Do not make the false assumption if you are wearing a piece of defensive headgear that you are insulated from the threat of a zombie bite. All undead ghouls crave living human tissue regardless of origin or location including, but not limited to, the epidermis, muscle tissue, internal organs and cerebral grey matter.