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In The Stand, the virus which wipes out the population is shown over and over again to take 1-3 days to kill its victims. It shows up as cold symptoms which rapidly develop to lethal levels.

But on the cameras showing the facility where the virus originated, where the inciting incident occurs that sets the virus free, everyone is shown to have died on the spot-- one man is repeatedly described as having died with his face in a bowl of soup, as though he died mid-bite in the middle of lunch, instantaneously.

I don't understand this discrepancy. What killed everyone instantly, if the virus takes 1-3 days to kill everyone else?

  • I vaguely recall some kind of throwaway line about the virus already mutating. – Radhil Jul 31 '18 at 0:11
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I'm not so sure now I've read a couple of forum questions on this - but I always thought that part of the lockdown procedure at the Project Blue facility was to flood it with fast-acting nerve toxin. Everyone in there would be dead anyway, and it would prevent transmission (except for that one pesky gate guard). But this appears not be supported by the book or mini-series.

As far as can be gathered from the book, and from looking at other diseases, the rapid action of the virus in the facility is possibly down to two factors:

a) amount of exposure - the leading theory on surviving Ebola pretty much boils down to how much virus you get infected with - it simply overwhelms the immune system if you're infected with a sufficient amount, but under a certain threshold and you may be able to fight it off. Since the air in the lab was likely saturated with the virus, it quickly overwhelmed the immune systems of the staff in the lab - causing them to collapse and then die very quickly.

b) the virus was designed to kill fast, and then mutated into a slower acting virus. Viruses have extremely high mutation rates per generation (compared to other lifeforms), and also have very short time between generations. By the time the virus is out in the world, we see some extreme variability in time between infection and death.

One last observation - we don't really know how much time occurred between infection and death for the people in Project Blue (although, I agree, it does look it was pretty sudden). The soup guy might have been symptomatic for hours or even a couple of days - he could have just been eating some soup in that short period where people seemed to rally (we see quite a few people in the book have their symptoms temporarily improve before death), and then he collapsed and died.

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    "Len Creighton watching him on a succession of monitors as he first picked out a jeep and then drove it across the desert floor of the sprawling test site and through a gate marked HIGH SECURITY ZONE NO ADMITTANCE WITHOUT SPECIAL CLEARANCE. The checkpoints looked like turnpike tollbooths. They were still manned, but the soldiers behind the yellowish glass were dead and rapidly mummifying in the dry desert heat. The booths were bulletproof, but they hadn’t been germproof." - It seems unlikely that the sentry posts outside the facility would be "cleansed". – Valorum Jul 31 '18 at 6:46
  • @valorum Fair point that – HorusKol Jul 31 '18 at 8:11

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