Emmanuel the Emu doesn't have bird flu after sparking panic
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Featured Image Credit: knucklebumpfarms/TikTok
Popular online celebrity Emmanuel the Emu has tested negative for bird flu after initially sparking panic when he fell ill.
The animal's plight was so worrisome that his owner Taylor Blake reached out to Bindi Irwin and Australia Zoo for help as she wanted to give him the best possible chance.
While Bindi sent her best wishes to the animal, she explained that her team did not have enough experience to help with a case of avian flu.
But it's now emerged that the emu never even had the illness, which ultimately led to the deaths of all but two of the birds on Taylor's farm, and was instead suffering from stress.
"Emmanuel Todd Lopez tested negative for Avian Influenza at 2 separate labs, swab, faecal and blood. He does not have the virus, and is not actively shedding the virus," Taylor tweeted on 22 October.
She went on to add that the animal was also negative for Eastern equine encephalitis virus, West Nile virus, chlamydia, and salmonella.
Emmanuel was suffering from a range of symptoms including 'apparent nerve damage' in his right foot, weakness and reduced appetite.
His owner has now concluded that this was prompted by the sudden deaths of more than 50 animals in a three-day period after wild Egyptian geese brought in avian influenza.
Taylor's remaining animals - not including Emmanuel - had to be euthanised as a precautionary measure.
She explained: "Emus are highly susceptible to stress. He was incredibly overwhelmed by the state coming in and euthanising our flock. (Although it was necessary, it was still very stressful on him). He stopped eating the day they depopulated.
"Something in my gut just told me that this wasn't the end for him. So I kept fighting for him, and I don't regret it. He never once had a single symptom of AI, other than not eating, which is often caused by stress in emus. It was just very coincidental timing."
However, while Emmanuel is thankfully on the mend now, it didn't stop a social media storm emerging when Taylor feared for his health.
This because she posted pictures of herself hugging the animal, which prompted virologists to warn that if he was infected, her actions could put humans at risk.
Maurice Pitesky, an epidemiologist at the University of California, warned of the dangers of animal to human transmission.
Speaking about the current outbreak of avian flu, he told NBC News: "It's spilling over in all kinds of different species, including mammals, which gives me a little pause for humans.
"Once an avian virus can move to mammals, now we're in the realm of 'Yeah, we better be careful.'"
However, according to experts, the current risk of the virus transmitting from animal to human remains low, although it could mutate to become more efficient at jumping in this way.
Nichola Hill, an ecologist at the University of Massachusetts Boston, said: "Keeping [Emmanuel] away from humans and other birds or mammals would be probably the most responsible behaviour."
But she went on to add: "Historically, we’ve actually never had a transmission directly from a wild bird to a human, so if it did actually shift or transmit from the emu to its owner, who's clearly very affectionate with it, that would be a first."
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