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Captain Trips is a nickname for the constantly shifting antigen virus (originally known as the Blue Virus) that exterminates 99.4% of the Earth's human population in Stephen King's The Stand and its TV mini-series adaptation.
Developed under the codename Project Blue by an American biological weapons laboratory located beneath California's Mojave Desert, it is also known as A-Prime, A6, Rales, Superflu, and Tube Neck.
The virus is set loose on the population when Charlie Campion, who was working in the base that developed it, noticed that the virus had been released in the base and managed to escape with his wife and daughter, but not before being infected with it himself. He carried the virus all the way to Arnette, Texas, before dying, thus setting in motion the events of the novel.
The only three people who are aware of the virus are the homeless doomsayer known as the Monster Shouter, the benevolent old woman Mother Abigail, and the demonic wizard Randall Flagg.
Signs and Symptoms
In The Stand, "Chapter 14", a military doctor identifies 4 stages. He notes great variation in the speed with which an infected person goes through the stages. Some characters skip or backtrack a stage. The disease is highly contagious in all stages.
Stage One: no symptoms, but "wagon wheel" incubator cells appear in the sputum and blood pressure shows abnormal fluctuations. Joe Bob Brentwood in "Chapter 8" and Eva Hodges in "Chapter 14" are examples.
Stage Two: resembling a cold, with some combination of headache, sniffles, sneezes, hoarse or nasal voice, mild cough, and low fever. Lymph glands start to swell although not all characters notice this. Most characters are able to continue their normal activities, so they remain excellent vectors. Occasionally, an infant may suffocate on phlegm while showing few other symptoms. Many characters in "Chapter 3", starting with Norm Bruett, have reached this stage.
Stage Three: a combination of mononucleosis and influenza (grading to pneumonia). The respiratory symptoms become more intense and are accompanied by painfully swollen glands, high fever, and possible delirium. Characters in this stage either go to bed or seek medical attention. In "Chapter 19" Alice Underwood enters this stage before Larry goes downtown, and is late in it when he returns to her.
Stage Four: a combination of pneumonic plague and cancer. Glands become grossly swollen ("tube neck"). The face also swells and darkens. Breathing is labored, with copious production of phlegm and in many cases blood. Breath sounds crackle or rattle (rales). Fever is very high and delirium is common. In most cases death is caused by respiratory failure. Examples include Charles Campion in "Chapter 1" and Christopher Bradenton in "Chapter 31".
Captain Trips is highly transmissible and almost universally fatal. All symptomatic cases in the initial pandemic resulted in death, and the only survivors were those who had a chance immunity to the disease.