'Last of Us' plague can't happen, Chicago health chief assures residents

Last of Us stars at premiere
Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey at HBO's THE LAST OF US Premiere held at the Regency Village Theater in Westwood, CA on Monday, ​January 9, 2023. Photo credit (Photo By Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA)

(WBBM NEWSRADIO) – The HBO Max hit medical thriller "The Last of Us" has people asking Chicago’s top medical officer: Could it happen here?

Just when you thought it was safe to sometimes leave your mask at home, now comes the megahit streaming series starring Pedro Pascal and Bella Ramsey about a fungal pandemic. The show features graphic images of fungi sprouting and coming out of peoples’ mouths and heads.

Public Health Commissioner Allison Arwady says Cordyceps is an actual fungus. She stresses it infects and kills insects and controls their brains. It can compel them to move to a higher place to help spread spores, she said.

Again, this is insects.

"Importantly, this fungus cannot infect humans,” Arwady said Tuesday.

She notes that human body temperatures are too high for Cordyceps to survive.

"Yes, there are fungal species that are also known to alter a human's mental processing,” she said. “The best known is probably psilocybin, or magic mushrooms."

Arwady became Chicago’s best-known expert on medical issues during the COVID-19 pandemic. She touched on “The Last of Us” during a wider question-and-answer session Tuesday.

Featured Image Photo Credit: (Photo By Sthanlee B. Mirador/Sipa USA)