Emmanuel the online emu star is at death’s door after avian flu strikes his Florida farm


Emmanuel the emu – a bird who went viral on social media earlier this year after pecking his owner’s phone as she filmed videos about farming  – is fighting for his life amid a deadly outbreak of avian flu that has killed most of the birds on the farm.

Emmanuel’s caretaker, Taylor Blake, revealed his dire condition Saturday, just three months after the pair had flown to stardom on TikTok.

Blake, whose family owns Knuckle Bump Farms in South Florida, said the bird is experiencing nerve damage and cannot eat or drink on his own after contracting the disease, and blamed the outbreak on wild geese that invade the farm nightly.

Desperate to save her feathered friend, the farmer said she is hand-feeding him all his food, sleeping less than an hour a day, and providing him with nourishment through subcutaneous fluids administered every two hours around the clock. 

She further revealed that she had been in contact with Florida officials who reportedly told her told her that stagnant water puddles left behind by Hurricane Ian late last month also spurred the outbreak, and had ‘made the virus run rampant.’  

The sudden spread has seen the 29-year-old content creator’s stable of more than 50 birds almost completely wiped out in a matter of three days – leaving behind only the lovable Emmanuel and his stablemate Rico the swan.

The roughly 5-foot-8, 120-pound emu faces ‘a long road ahead’ to recovery, Blake said, but insists that the lovable animal – who has been left temporarily unable to walk because of his affliction – is a ‘fighter.’ 

Emmanuel the emu – a bird who went viral on social media earlier this year after pecking his owner’s phone as she filmed videos about farming – is fighting for his life amid a deadly outbreak of avian flu that has killed most of the birds on the farm

Emmanuel¿s caretaker, Taylor Blake ( at left), revealed his dire condition Saturday, just three months after the pair had flown to stardom on TikTok

 Emmanuel’s caretaker, Taylor Blake ( at left), revealed his dire condition Saturday, just three months after the pair had flown to stardom on TikTok

‘We lost every single chicken and duck on our farm. We lost all of our geese. We lost our 2 female black swans. We lost both of our turkeys,’ Blake tweeted to her 874,000 followers on Sunday, roughly a week after the outbreak surfaced.

She revealed: ‘We lost 50+ birds in 3 days. I am still trying to wrap my head around it. 

‘We thought we were out of the woods when Emmanuel unexpectedly went down this past Wednesday.’

The post was accompanied by a heartbreaking photo of a lethargic Emmanuel, with the once lively animal lying down on the farm floor as Blake carefully cradles his head against hers.

‘I am running on about 4hrs of sleep in 4 days bc all that matters to me is saving him,’ the farmer added in another post that showed photos of her and family members working on the bird – who at the moment, Blake said, remains stable. 

‘Currently, he is stable. His neurological symptoms have subsided but he still won’t eat or drink on his own,’ she said, adding, ‘I am hand feeding him & giving him subcutaneous fluids every 2hrs around the clock.’

Blake shared a post Sunday of her comforting a lethargic Emmanuel, with the once lively animal lying down on the farm floor as Blake carefully cradles his head against hers

Blake shared a post Sunday of her comforting a lethargic Emmanuel, with the once lively animal lying down on the farm floor as Blake carefully cradles his head against hers

Blake, whose family owns Knuckle Bump Farms in South Florida, said the bird is experiencing nerve damage and cannot eat or drink on his own after contracting the disease, and blamed the outbreak on wild geese that invade the farm nightly

Blake, whose family owns Knuckle Bump Farms in South Florida, said the bird is experiencing nerve damage and cannot eat or drink on his own after contracting the disease, and blamed the outbreak on wild geese that invade the farm nightly

The sudden spread has seen the 29-year-old content creator's stable of more than 50 birds almost completely wiped out in a matter of three days - leaving behind only the lovable Emmanuel and one other stablemate

The sudden spread has seen the 29-year-old content creator’s stable of more than 50 birds almost completely wiped out in a matter of three days – leaving behind only the lovable Emmanuel and one other stablemate

The roughly 5-foot-8, 120-pound emu faces 'a long road ahead' to recovery, Blake said, but insists that the lovable animal - who has been left temporarily unable to walk because of his affliction - is a 'fighter'

The roughly 5-foot-8, 120-pound emu faces ‘a long road ahead’ to recovery, Blake said, but insists that the lovable animal – who has been left temporarily unable to walk because of his affliction – is a ‘fighter’

Another post showed the internet star appear slightly shaken over her companion’s condition, which quickly deteriorated following the deaths of her dozens of other emus, swans, and turkeys.

‘I am trying my best to remain hopeful, tap into my unwavering faith, and trust that God is in control,’ Blake wrote in a post accompanied by a picture of her sharing a heartfelt moment with the visibly sick bird. 

Remaining hopeful, however, Blake added: ‘I am also doing my best to remain thankful in the face of loss, for I have so much to be grateful for.’ 

Blake also shared a heartbreaking photo of her snuggling up against the exotic bird – which is endemic to Australia – on the floor of her family’s barn, kissing him as he loving gazes back at her.

‘I love you so much, Emmanuel,’ the caption for the Sunday post reads. 

Blake said, she has been tending to him around the clock since Wednesday, with the help of a vet who has sedated and stabilized him

Blake said, she has been tending to him around the clock since Wednesday, with the help of a vet who has sedated and stabilized him

Emmanuel has more than 2million fans online - achieved largely thanks to his impromptu attacks on his partner's cellphone - and many have been wishing for words of encouragement as the bird fights the sickness, which has left him with nerve damage in his right leg

Emmanuel has more than 2million fans online – achieved largely thanks to his impromptu attacks on his partner’s cellphone – and many have been wishing for words of encouragement as the bird fights the sickness, which has left him with nerve damage in his right leg

Emmanuel has more than 2 million fans on social media – achieved largely thanks to his impromptu attacks on his partner’s cellphone – and many have been wishing for words of encouragement as the bird continues to fight the sickness, which has left him with severe nerve damage in his right leg.

Blake, meanwhile, said she has been tending to him around the clock since Wednesday, with the help of a vet who has sedated and stabilized him. 

‘He went down in the middle of the night and we didn’t know until the next morning,’ Blake wrote of how Emmanuel came down with the contagious disease.

She revealed: ‘He spent hours lying on one side and it’s caused some damage.’

The Florida content creator went on to post more photos showing the farm’s efforts to nurse the ailing emu back to health.

The Florida content creator went on to to post more photos showing the farm's efforts to nurse the ailing emu back to health

The Florida content creator went on to to post more photos showing the farm’s efforts to nurse the ailing emu back to health

The images show the farmhands and animal workers tending to the bird, while helping him to stand with a homemade sling

The images show the farmhands and animal workers tending to the bird, while helping him to stand with a homemade sling

Blake said she is 'dedicated' to ensuring that Emmanuel survives this malady, asserting that with the apparatus, the bird could 'start physical therapy'

Blake said she is ‘dedicated’ to ensuring that Emmanuel survives this malady, asserting that with the apparatus, the bird could ‘start physical therapy’

The images show the farmhands and animal workers tending to the bird while helping him to stand with a homemade sling.

Blake said she is ‘dedicated’ to ensuring that Emmanuel survives this malady, asserting that with the apparatus, the bird could ‘start physical therapy.’ 

‘I will do anything and go into any amount of debt to save his life,’ she wrote. 

The United States, meanwhile, is in the midst of a months-long avian influenza outbreak that experts have said is the worst worldwide since 2015, when a ‘highly pathogenic’ strain of the disease infected more than 49 million birds. 

At the time, the Department of Agriculture called it ‘the most costly animal health emergency’ in its history – with the latest outbreak currently affecting 47 million farmed birds, nearly the same as in the 2014-15 season. 

'I will do anything and go into any amount of debt to save his life,' Blake said of her feathered friend

‘I will do anything and go into any amount of debt to save his life,’ Blake said of her feathered friend

Blake said she suspects the outbreak at the farm was spread by wild Egyptian geese, a type of aquatic bird known as waterfowl, who regularly infiltrate the family farm ‘under the cover of darkness.’

She is adamant they spread the disease among the domesticated birds there. 

‘The virus hit them extremely hard and very quickly,’ Blake wrote on Twitter of the extent of her family’s loss, which saw the lives of ‘every single’ chicken, duck, goose, swan, and turkey snuffed out. 

With that said, officials apparently told the farmer that water dispersed all over the state as a result of Hurricane Ian may have contributed to the spread. 

The virus – known scientifically as highly pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI) – has so far forced poultry farmers in 36 US states to kill flocks and close operations, threatening further disruptions with a resurgence of cases in September. 

If transmitted to humans, the virus has a fatality rate of 50 percent. 

The mischievous emu who rocketed to fame over the summer in a series of videos posted by Blake that show the bird hogging the camera and then fiercely pecking at the device until it falls to the ground, as Blake attempts to coach followers on farm life

The mischievous emu who rocketed to fame over the summer in a series of videos posted by Blake that show the bird hogging the camera and then fiercely pecking at the device until it falls to the ground, as Blake attempts to coach followers on farm life

'Don't do it Emmanuel, don't do it!' Blake warned the bird in the initial impromptu clip, which shows Emmanuel suddenly step into the frame while she attempts to educate the public about miniature cows

‘Don’t do it Emmanuel, don’t do it!’ Blake warned the bird in the initial impromptu clip, which shows Emmanuel suddenly step into the frame while she attempts to educate the public about miniature cows

The hilarious clip has went viral, garnering millions of views and fans on @knucklebumpfarms TikTok

The hilarious clip has went viral, garnering millions of views and fans on @knucklebumpfarms TikTok

Emmanuel’s videos, meanwhile, have reached millions of people on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter, with the bird for the past few months becoming an internet sensation.  

Blake and a puppet of Emmanuel were featured on ‘The Tonight Show’ in July, and both him and Blake regularly send out Cameo videos to fans to see their antics.

The farm has even begun to sell merchandise with the emu’s face on it. 

In the meantime, Blake has expressed gratitude that despite losing most of her flock, Emmanuel thankfully, calling the plucky bird her ‘best friend.’

‘I have so much gratitude in my heart that Emmanuel is still alive. That he is fighting,’ Blake wrote, writing, ‘my best friend is making a comeback. 

‘I am going to be ok, we are going to be ok!’

A virus that kills up to 50% of humans… but transmission is rare: Everything you need to know about bird flu 

What is bird flu?

Bird flu, or avian flu, is an infectious type of influenza that spreads among bird species but can, on rare occasions, jump to human beings.

It is an infectious disease of birds caused by a variant of the standard influenza A virus. 

Bird flu is unique in that it can be transmitted directly from birds to humans. 

There are 15 different strains of the virus. It is the H5N1 strain which is infecting humans and causing deaths. 

Humans can catch bird flu directly through close contact with live infected birds and those who work with infected chickens are most at risk. 

Like human influenza, there are many strains of bird flu:

The current outbreak in birds in the US is H5N1. 

Where has it been spotted in the US?

To date, H5N1 viruses have been found in U.S. commercial and backyard birds in 29 states and in wild birds in 36 states. There is only one documented human case of HPAI in the US.

How deadly is the virus?

Fatality rates for bird flu in humans have been estimated to be as high as 50 per cent. 

But because transmission to humans is so rare, around 500 bird flu deaths have been reported to the World Health Organization since 1997. 

Is it transmissible from birds to humans?

Cases of bird-to-human transmission are rare and usually do not spread on human-to-human.

Bird flu is spread by close contact with an infected bird or the body of one. 

This can include:

  • touching infected birds
  • touching droppings or bedding
  • killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking

Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, said: ‘Transfer of avian flu to people is rare as it requires direct contact between an infected, usually dead, bird and the individual concerned. 

‘It is a risk for the handlers who are charged with the disposal of carcasses after an outbreak but the virus does not spread generally and poses little threat. 

‘It does not behave like the seasonal flu we are used to.

‘Despite the current heightened concern around viruses there is no risk to chicken meat or eggs and no need for public alarm.’

Recent outbreak

Roughly 38 million birds in domestic flocks have died in Bird Flue outbreaks since early February.

A USDA tally said 780,000 birds in commercial flocks died of HPAI or were culled so far in May, compared to 1.49 million birds in February, 20.96 million in March and 14.73 million in April.

But as summer looms on the horizon, United States Department of Agriculture data suggests the threat of the spread will fade as we welcome in warmer weather. 

The last detection of HPAI was during the 2014-15 epidemic, one of the worst animal disease outbreaks in US history. It caused some 43 million laying hens and pullets died along with 7.4 million turkeys. 

What are the symptoms? 

Symptoms of bird flue usually take three to five days to appear with the most common being:  

  • a very high temperature 
  • or feeling hot or shivery 
  • aching muscles 
  • headache 
  • a cough or shortness of breath 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk