Dad infected with bird flu from adopted ducks says 'he's fine but lonely in isolation

The British bird flu “patient zero” says he is fine but very lonely – when the first photo of him in isolation is published.

Alan Gosling, 79, was identified yesterday as a man infected with a certain strain of bird flu.

The father of three from Buckfastleigh, Devon, is said to have contracted the disease from ducks he adopted.

In late December, he began to see some of his herd become sick – which resulted in all 160 being wiped out soon afterwards.

Doctors then ran tests to see if Alan was infected himself, even though the H5N1 strain had never infected anyone before – and came back positive.

The retired train driver is now stuck in his house alone, mourning his ducks – and his family is getting more and more concerned.

Alan said this morning that he felt “absolutely fine – but very lonely”.

He said, “I’m fine as far as health is concerned, but I can’t stop thinking about the ducks. I’m as fit and healthy now as I was as a donkey years ago because I was busy looking after the ducks.” and active every day.

“I would be back with them by now, but I don’t have one because they killed them all.

“I can’t believe it – some of them I had for 12, 13 years because they were tiny chicks and I raised them by hand.

“They all had different stories – and then I had to watch them get killed and there was nothing I could do to help them.

“Right now I don’t know what to do with my days. Before that, I was always outside with the ducks to clear them out, to keep an eye on them – they booked my days and so I liked it.

“People thought I was crazy when they called me to come back from the river, but it has always been like that until now.

“One of my other hobbies that I will go back to is restoring old clocks, but right now I can’t focus on anything else because all I can think of is my ducks.

“I keep going crazy in my head and when I go to sleep I dream about it – it never leaves my head.

“Maybe one day I would like to have a few more ducks or other birds, but it will never replace what I have lost.

“It takes a long time to integrate them into the environment – all the other ducks knew exactly where to go and what to do because they get to know you and their home.

“Maybe someday, but right now I can’t think about it – all I can think about is that they knew exactly what was going on before they were killed.

“The poor guys were all killed without thinking about the animals.”

Ducks can still be seen swimming in a river in Buckfastleigh, Devon

Daughter-in-law Ellesha Gosling (26) and son Richard Gosling (47) are worried about their relatives.

She said, “The past few weeks have been hell. Alan told us that when the birds were killed it was ‘the worst moment of his life’.

“Killing his beloved ducks destroyed him – it broke him. It was so stressful and an absolute nightmare for us as a family.

“Both me and my husband had to take time off from work to cope with this.

“He’s asked questions about his health and we can’t answer questions because we don’t know the answers.

“He told us he wasn’t bad, but he’s really stubborn and we don’t think he would tell us if he were. We are very worried.

“Not just because of the flu, but because those ducks were his closest family and he just lost them all at once and is now in it alone.

“It devastated him.”

Ellesha said her father-in-law was instructed to test for the disease after the herd of 160 ducks were positive and killed.

Local duck expert Alan had developed a relationship with the town’s Muscovy birds over several years – and eventually adopted them.

But a few days before Christmas Alan noticed that several ducks in his huge flock were getting sick.

After DEFRA and APHA got wind of his close contact and they were sorted out shortly after Christmas to prevent the spread.

Alan’s budgies and cockatoos were also killed.

Two of Alan Gosling's pet ducks

Daughter-in-law Ellesha Gosling (26) and son Richard Gosling (47) are worried about their relatives.

She said, “The past few weeks have been hell. Alan told us that when the birds were killed it was ‘the worst moment of his life’.

“Killing his beloved ducks destroyed him – it broke him. It was so stressful and an absolute nightmare for us as a family.

“Both me and my husband had to take time off from work to cope with this.

“He’s asked questions about his health and we can’t answer questions because we don’t know the answers.

“He told us he wasn’t bad, but he’s really stubborn and we don’t think he would tell us if he were. We are very worried.

“Not just because of the flu, but because those ducks were his closest family and he just lost them all at once and is now in it alone.

“It devastated him.”

Ellesha said her father-in-law was instructed to test for the disease after the herd of 160 ducks were positive and killed.

Local duck expert Alan had developed a relationship with the town’s Muscovy birds over several years – and eventually adopted them.

But a few days before Christmas Alan noticed that several ducks in his huge flock were getting sick.

After DEFRA and APHA got wind of his close contact and they were sorted out shortly after Christmas to prevent the spread.

Alan’s budgies and cockatoos were also killed.

He was told to remain alone on the contaminated property where the birds were killed while the tests are being carried out.

Meanwhile, the family begs authorities to go inside and disinfect the property – but they have been told he will need to raise the money, which leaves him in the balance.

They claim they were told he would be “treated as if he had the disease” until they know otherwise.

And the family claimed that none of them – including Alan – had heard of the confirmed infection before reading it on the news.

A press release from the UK Health and Safety Authority (HSA) yesterday confirmed a case in the south-west of England, although Alan was not named.

It read: “The transmission of avian flu from birds to humans is very rare and has only occurred a few times in Great Britain.

“The person contracted the infection through very close, regular contact with a large number of infected birds that they kept in and around their home for long periods of time.

“The risk to the general public from avian flu is still very low. However, sick or dead birds should not be touched.

“The case was discovered after APHA found an outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian flu in its flock of birds.

“Your infection was detected through the routine surveillance that is carried out on anyone who has close contact with infected birds.

“The infected birds were all culled.”

The nationwide avian flu outbreak has seen other parks shut down their duck ponds and enclosures to save their animals from the same fate as Alan’s.

St James’s Park, a royal park in central London, has taken precautions.

A notice on their website states that the park’s famous pelicans will be relocated to an alternative enclosure.

It states: “During the current national avian flu outbreak, we were instructed by the Animal and Phytosanitary Authority to move the pelicans from St. James’s Park to their enclosure on Duck Island as a precautionary measure.

“We want to reassure the public that all six pelicans are healthy and we hope that they will soon be back outside and preening at the lake.

“During the avian flu outbreak, we stepped up monitoring of our waters in all parks to check for signs of disease and to ensure that all carcasses are removed immediately.

“To date, we have not been warned of an outbreak of the disease in the area, and we have not seen any avian flu in birds visiting the waters.”

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