Bird Watching

Emmanuel, famous emu, has bird flu at Knuckle Bump Farms

Emmanuel the emu – who went viral on TikTok for hilariously pecking at his owner’s phone while filming educational farming videos – is fighting for his life amid a deadly bird flu outbreak that has killed most of the birds on the farm where he lives, his owner said.

Emmanuel suffers from nerve damage in his right leg and cannot eat or drink on his own after contracting the sickness wednesday, content creator and hobby farmer Taylor Blake shared on social media on Saturday night. Blake, whose family owns Knuckle Bump Farms in South Florida, said the farm lost more than 50 birds in three days – all but Emmanuel and Rico the swan.

Emmanuel — the roughly 5-foot-8, 120-pound emu who The Washington Post interviewed in July — faces “a long way to go” to recover, Blake said. But he is a “fighter”, she added.

Emmanuel the emu has become a star of Knuckle Bump Farms TikToks. Taylor Blake, whose family owns the farm, helped moderate Emmanuel’s interview. (Video: Annabelle Timsit/The Washington Post)

The United States is in the midst of a month-long bird flu epidemic which experts said was the worst since 2015, when a “highly pathogenic” strain of the disease affected more than 49 million birds. The agriculture department called it the “costliest animal health emergency” in its history.

Bird flu has spread to 27 states, sending egg prices soaring

Blake said she suspected the outbreak of bird flu at the farm was spread by crowds of wild Egyptian geese, a type of waterfowl known as waterfowl, which fly “under cover of darkness”. She said she believed they had spread the disease among the domestic birds there.

“The virus hit them extremely hard and very quickly,” Blake wrote on Twitter describing the extent of the loss of his family farm: “Every” chicken, duck, goose, female black swan and turkey on the farm died in just three days. .

Emmanuel’s videos have reached millions of people on TikTok, Instagram and Twitter. Blake and an Emmanuel puppet were featured on “The Tonight Show” with Jimmy Fallon in July, and Knuckle Bump Farms began selling merchandise with the emu’s face on it.

Now Blake wants to use what happened to his farm to raise awareness of the disease. She said she was ‘dedicated’ to making sure Emmanuel survived it – describing a scarf she and girlfriend Kristian Haggerty built so the emu could ‘start physical therapy’.

In a video posted on Saturday evening, Emmanuel appeared alert, at one point staring directly into the camera as Blake gave him kisses on the head.

Bird flu is a viral disease that is usually spread from wild birds to domestic birds through bodily fluids, including saliva and feces. In its highly pathogenic form, it is extremely contagious and deadly and cannot be treated.

The virus affects birds differently: some are simply found dead without any signs of illness, while in others it can cause neurological damageincluding seizures, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

While experts say the risk of spread from birds to humans is low, it can happen and can cause serious illness or death. In April, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed that a person in Colorado involved “in the culling (depopulation) of poultry suspected of being infected with H5N1 avian influenza” had tested positive for the virus, symptoms experienced then recovered. He said the health risk to the general population stay weak.

Highly contagious bird flu circulating in DC area not a danger to humans, officials say

The current highly pathogenic avian influenza outbreak began in January 2022 in Canada and is thought to have spread from Europe. Wild birds migrating to the United States are thought to have brought the virus to dozens of states – including, for the first time, Floridawhere the outbreak has been “unprecedented”, the commission said.

Blake said on Saturday that she had been in contact with officials in Florida, who she said told him that standing water left behind by Hurricane Ian, which hit the state in late September, had “rendered the virus endemic.”

Florida wildlife officials could not immediately be reached for comment early Sunday. Various studies have shown that the risk of spreading highly pathogenic avian influenza increases with proximity to contaminated water bodies.

Ian has been Florida’s deadliest hurricane since 1935. Most victims drowned.

In a previous interview with The Post, Blake described how she started posting videos with Knuckle Bump Farms animals in 2018 to entertain and educate people about life on the farm. The first time Emmanuel interrupted her while she was shooting a video on the farm, Blake was irritated and didn’t post it. About a month later, she was watching the video again on her phone and found the interruption amusing.

“I just posted it, without thinking about it,” she said at the time. It “completely spiraled from there”.

Blake said Emmanuel had a real “obsession with the camera” – and with it. “No matter where I am…he always has to be right next to me.”

Shortly after Blake posted information about Emmanuel’s condition on Twitter, messages of support began pouring in from well-wishers who came to love Emmanuel and his relentless pursuit of his owner’s cellphone.

“DON’T DARE TO DO IT Emmanuel Todd Lopez. You are the king of the birds and YOU will SURVIVE!!!” one said, using Emmanuel’s full name and echoing Blake’s standard rebuke for the rebellious bird.

“We love you Emmanuel! You were put on this earth to bring joy to the world,” a wrote. “Keep fighting!!!”