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Inside the Race to Stop a Deadly Viral Outbreak in India

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On the morning of September 11, critical care specialist Anoop Kumar was presented with an unusual situation. Four members of the same family had been admitted to his hospital—Aster MIMS in Kozhikode, Kerala—the previous day, all similarly sick. Would he take a look?

He gathered his team of doctors to investigate. Soon they were at the bedsides of a 9-year-old boy, his 4-year-old sister, their 24-year-old uncle, and a 10-month-old cousin. All had arrived at the hospital with fever, cough, and flulike symptoms. The 9-year-old was in respiratory distress, struggling to breathe properly, and had needed to be put on a noninvasive ventilator, with air pumped through a mask to keep his lungs expanded.

Their symptoms were concerning and mysterious—none of the team could pinpoint what was wrong. But delving into their family history, Anoop and his colleagues soon uncovered a clue. The father of the two young siblings, 49-year-old Mohammed Ali, an agriculturalist, had died less than two weeks previously. And when the team at Aster MIMS got in touch with the hospital that had treated…

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