Why areca nut plantations cause ‘monkey fever’

However, the lack of economic opportunity means that locals often have little choice but to continue entering plantations and forests to work.

“I only know how to do this kind of work – I have no other skills,” said Govindha, a 56-year-old plantation worker who fell into a coma after contracting the disease. His wife, Laxmi, was also hospitalized. “I thought we were both going to die,” she recalls. “I told my son to give our cows to someone else.” Despite their ordeal, the pair both went back to work on the plantation.

After Suresh died, Gayatri, now the sole breadwinner of the family, also felt she had no choice but to return to her job collecting areca nuts at the plantation. Nevertheless, she thinks it is important to raise awareness of the disease; if she had taken Suresh to the hospital right away, she says, he might still be alive.

“I had never heard of KFD,” she says. “Had I known, I might have acted faster.”

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