Behaviour Honourable mention 'Plant trees and stop disease emergence' Peter J Hudson FRS. 'In recent years, bats have appeared as disease reservoirs of significant emerging diseases, such as Ebola, Hendra, Nipah, SARS and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome. The pressing issue we face in protecting people and livestock from these novel infections, is why does spillover (the passage of a virus from wildlife to humans) occur and why is it increasing? We have been studying Hendra virus on the east coast of Australia where the virus passes from flying foxes to horses and then to humans who suffer a 60% case fatality rate. Our recent work is now showing that spillover occurs in winter when the winter flowering eucalyptus trees fail to produce nectar, and this situation has been exacerbated by deforestation. In these harsh conditions, the starving bats move away from their traditional camps and seek fruit trees planted in horse paddocks where they infect the horses. There has been much controversy in Australia with attempts to burn down bat roosts and kill the bats. From our research it would appear the solution is to rewild parts of Australia by planting 5 species of tree at specific locations so the bats do not starve and spillover will cease. This will also retain bats and the integrity of the ecosystem. If we extrapolate out our hypothesis then we may obtain a deeper understanding of how Ebola and other infections emerge following deforestation in west Africa, often associated with palm oil plantations. Plant trees and protect people from disease. This photograph was taken with a Canon 1DXmk2 and an EF 100-400mm f4 II lens set to 176mm. Taken at 1/200s, f20, ISO 400. Additional equipment included an infra red trigger with 2, flash set at Manual 1/16th power.'
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