Ecological theory predicts a diverse range of functional responses of species to resource availability; but in the context of human blood consumption by disease vectors, a simplistic, linear response is ubiquitously assumed. A simple and flexible model formulation is presented that extends the Holling's Types to account for a wider range of qualitatively distinct behaviours, and used to examine the impact of different vector responses to the relative availability of multiple blood-host species. Epidemiological models of falciparum malaria, Chagas disease and Lyme disease demonstrate that the standard, often implicit, assumption of a linear functional response can lead to spurious under- or over-estimates in disease transmission potential, across a full range of pathogen life-cycles. It is shown how the functional response in vector biting can augment disease intervention outcomes. Interactions between vector biting behaviour and uneven pathogen transmission probabilities between alternative hosts, as is the case for Chagas disease, can render infection more resilient to control. Both the novel response formula and the nested vector-borne disease structure offer a flexible framework that can be applied to other vector-borne diseases in assessing the role of this newly identified aspect of biting behavioural ecology
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