Supplemental feeding—when people provide food to wildlife—is growing more common and new research suggests it can increase the spread of some infectious diseases and decrease the spread of others. A new study by ecologists finds that the outcome depends on the type of pathogen and the source of food. With pathogens like bacteria or viruses that are spread by close contact, food sources that attract large numbers of animals can encourage transmission, including transmission from one species to another—even to humans. This is suggested with the spread of Nipah virus in Malaysia, where infected fruit bats are attracted to fruit trees planted by farmers, bringing them into contact with livestock and people. The new research findings have implications for human health and wildlife conservation, and contain practical suggestions for wildlife disease management and a roadmap for future study.
Visit Website | Image credit: Andy Davis, Odum School of Ecology, University of Georgia