Animals

UK’s bird flu ‘patient zero’ banned from keeping ducks


Alan Gosling became the first person to catch the flu strain in the UK (Picture: SWNS)

A man who caught avian flu from the ducks he shared his home with has been banned from keeping animals.

Alan Gosling risked becoming ‘patient zero’ when he was infected by one of his flock of 160 pet birds.

The 79-year-old retired train driver cared for the ducks over several years and had to endure the distress of seeing his pets culled.

He was forced to quarantine at his home in Buckfastleigh, Devon, after a lab test confirmed he is the first human case of H5N1 strain of bird flu.

Alan has since turned negative and will be allowed to return to his daily life once a deep clean of his home is completed.

But relatives say he was dealt a further hammer blow this week when he was reportedly told he can’t keep more ducks for 12 months.

Alan previously described his flock of Muscovy ducks – 20 of which lived inside with him – as ‘family’.

The bird-obsessive reared dozens of ducks at his Devon home but bird flu spread through his flock (Picture: SWNS)

Daughter-in-law Ellesha Gosling, 26, said: ‘When the ducks were killed, his only bit of hope was that he’d be able to get more.

‘He thought hope was not lost because he could fill the void after losing his closest companions.

‘But now he’s been told it’s not safe for new ducks to go onto his land for a whole year. Dad’s face dropped when he was told.

‘It really hurt him because that’s what was keeping him going. They took away all his friends and now he has been left with nothing.’

Several of Mr Gosling’s ducks fell ill in late December amid government warning about the spread of the disease in the UK.

A few days later he also was confirmed to be the first UK case – despite having no symptoms – and has remained isolated in his empty home since.

He said of the culling: ‘I keep turning it over in my head and when I go to sleep it’s what I dream about – it never leaves my mind.

Mr Gosling was forced to isolate at home after testing positive for H5N1 (Picture: SWNS)

‘They were like my family and I miss them like hell. I hand-reared them from chicks and some of them were 12 or 13-years-old.’

Despite plans for decontamination, Ellesha and husband Richard Gosling, 47, said they have been told no ducks will be allowed for at least one year.

She added: ‘We were told that his property wouldn’t be suited to a full cleanse then a restock.

‘Dad’s face dropped when he was told he couldn’t have any more for a year – he couldn’t believe it.

‘He is absolutely distraught. When the ducks were killed, his only bit of hope was that he’d be able to get more.

‘He thought all was not lost because of that, but now he has been told no – it really hurt him. They took away all his friends and now he has been left with nothing.’

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