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TikTok star Emmanuel the emu is battling avian influenza, his caretaker, Taylor Blake, tweeted Saturday.
Emmanuel came down with the virus after a flock of wild Egyptian geese made frequent visits to Knuckle Bump Farms, the South Florida farm where he lives.
Blake would help chase off the geese, as they pose a real threat to domesticated birds, but they would come back at night, Blake said.
The virus has killed 99% of the farm’s birds and left Emmanuel fighting for his life since Wednesday.
“I will do anything and go into any amount of debt to save his life,” Blake tweeted about her best friend. “My vet came out and was able to sedate and stabilize him until I could find an avian specialist. I have been treating him around the clock since Wednesday.”
It’s “relatively impossible” to vaccinate birds for the virus because there are many mutated versions of it, Blake said. The farm is in touch with the state, which thinks standing water from Hurricane Ian has made avian influenza spread rampantly.
Blake said that while Emmanuel’s neurological symptoms have subsided, he still won’t eat or drink on his own and he has nerve damage in his right leg and foot.
Blake and her girlfriend built Emmanuel a sling for his damaged leg, and they have started physical therapy with him so he can regain function of it.
Blake tweeted Sunday that Emmanuel is making progress — sitting up by himself, taking backward steps and putting pressure on his right foot.
“This is the first time he’s done this, and at this point, every small step feels like a milestone,” she said.
Emmanuel has a long road ahead, but Blake expects him to recover and “continue to spread love, light and joy.”
“He is a fighter and I wholeheartedly believe he is going to make a full recovery,” Blake said.
Emmanuel Todd Lopez, as Blake calls him, first pecked his way to fame by making appearances in videos she recorded for the farm’s TikTok account, @knucklebumpfarms, which has 2.4 million followers.
The flightless bird would aim straight for the iPhone camera, with a sole goal to knock it down.
“Emmanuel, don’t do it!” Blake often says to the emu when he crosses in front of her and the camera. Emmanuel then usually pauses, stares into the lens and completely takes over the shot.
NBC News has asked Blake and Knuckle Bump Farms for an update on Emmanuel.
Kurt Chirbas is a senior editor for NBC News based in New York.
Mirna Alsharif is a breaking news reporter for NBC News.
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