The Last of Us fans spot how Joel & Sarah were nearly infected in Episode 1

Lucy-Jo Finnighan
The last of us joel and sarah

The Last of Us tells the story of a fungal infection wreaking havoc across America – and Joel and Sarah nearly got themselves infected in Episode 1.

The Last of Us, one of the most acclaimed titles of the 2010s and a generation-defining game, is being given the prestige, big-budget television treatment on HBO. The story follows two people, Joel and Ellie, on a life-or-death, cross-country trip across an America ravaged by a brutal virus.

Episode 1, which has just premiered, gives us a view into the day of the outbreak, which featured many important casualties. It seems like in the span of one night half the population gets infected.

But how do people get infected in the world of The Last of Us? Let us explain…

What nearly infected Joel and Sarah in The Last of Us Episode 1?

As shown in the original game, the Cordyceps fungal infection, which used to merely infect ants and has now spread to humans, is caused due to an infected source of food.

Firstly, it should be noted that the reason cordyceps has become accustomed to infecting humans is that due to global warming the fungus has now evolved to survive at temperatures it once couldn’t. Meaning that it can now survive the heat inside of humans. This is suggested in the cold opening of the series, and it seemingly comes true.

In the game’s prologue, as we follow Sarah through her and Joel’s house, she is able to pick up a newspaper which discusses how hospitals have begun filling with infected people, and how “contaminated crops” are to blame. We can imagine that these crops are wheat, or another food substance that relies on yeast (a form of fungus) in order to be cooked.

newspaper the last of us

Which brings us to the HBO show, as a fan Twitter account spotted how Sarah, Joel, and Tommy all narrowly avoid eating this contaminated food.

Said account stated: “The infection happened through food right? Right. Then if Joel didn’t forget to buy pancake mix that day, they would’ve been infected.”

Another account added onto this discussion, saying: “And didn’t eat the cookies or biscuits the Adlers made! And Tommy ate leftover wings instead of anything with flour or sugar too.”

The Adlers do end up getting infected, mainly due to the old lady attacking them, but it could also have been after they baked cookies with Sarah, which she didn’t eat due to them having raisins in them. Good call on that one, Sarah.

Later, when chaos fully strikes Texas, Sarah asks Joel if he thinks they’re infected. He assures her that they aren’t, as he believes that the infection has come from the city, where the Adlers had to go a lot due to their mother’s hospital care. But we can imagine that’s because the city is where most of the contaminated crops would be shipped to, and because it simply has a denser population, therefore infection could spread more easily.

The Last of Us Episode 2 will premiere on HBO on January 22.

For more TLOU content, check out some of our below guides:

Joel & Tess explained | Sarah spoilers | Fungus threat is terrifying | The dog’s fate | Who is Marlene? | Why is Ellie so important? | Soundtrack choice | FEDRA & the Fireflies explained

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About The Author

Lucy-Jo is a Movies and TV Writer at Dexerto, and has previously written for Screen Rant and Girls on Tops. After earning a Master's Degree in Film and Literature, Lucy-Jo now loves covering films, TV shows, and anime, especially if it's something by Mike Flanagan, or anything drenched in camp. You can contact her at