Breaking Devon Plymouth

A Devon pensioner – ironically called Alan Gosling – has been named as the UK’s bird flu ‘patient zero’ – as his family say they are worried about him being locked inside all alone

Mr Gosling, 79, has been identified as the first person across the nation to become infected with a particular strain of avian flu.
The dad-of-three, from Buckfastleigh, Devon, began to see some of his ducks falling ill in late December – which resulted in all 160 of his flock being culled soon after.
Doctors did tests to see if Alan himself had become infected despite the fact the H5N1 strain had never infected a human before – and came back positive.
The pensioner is now stuck inside his home alone as he grieves his ducks – with his family growing increasingly concerned.
Daughter-in-law Ellesha Gosling, 26, said, “The past couple of weeks have been hell. Alan told us when the birds were killed, it was the ‘worst moment of his life’.
“The culling of his beloved ducks has destroyed him – it’s broken him. It has been so stressful and an absolute nightmare for us as a family.
“Both myself and my husband have had to take time off work to handle it.
“He has asked questions about his health and we can’t answer any questions because we don’t know any answers.
“He has told us he is not poorly, but he’s really stubborn and we don’t think he would tell us if he was. We are very worried.
“Not just because of the flu, but because those ducks were his closest family and he has just lost all of them at once and now he’s stuck inside on his own.
“It has devastated him.”
Ellesha said her father-in-law was ordered to test for the disease after a local flock of 160 local ducks came up positive and were culled last week.
Local duck expert Alan helps looks after Muscovy ducks in the town – and eventually took them in.
But, a few days before Christmas, Alan began to notice several ducks of his huge flock becoming sick.
The birds originally lived in a public area near Alan’s home.
He started to feed them, eventually becoming friendly enough over a number of years that he was able to bring them to his property to live with him.
After DEFRA and APHA got wind of his close contact, and they were culled in a bid to prevent the spread, shortly after Christmas.
Alan’s pet budgies and cockatoo were also culled.
Gutted Alan said, “I wake up in the middle of the night thinking I’m having a nightmare then realise this is actually happening.
“I had kept my ducks for 20 years they were my family – they were my life. Before, I was never alone and now I’m stuck here with empty cages – it’s like a morgue.
“I feel totally fine myself, that’s part of the story – I’m just upset about losing all my ducks. It’s torn me to pieces and broken my heart.”
Alan has been told he must remain alone inside the contaminated property where the birds were killed while tests are being run.
The family are pleading with authorities to go in and disinfect the property – but have been told he would have to stump up the money, leaving him in limbo.
And his family were told he would be “treated as if he has” the condition until they know otherwise.
His family said none of them – including Alan – had been told of the confirmed infection before reading it in the news.
As previously reported the UK Health and Security Agency (HSA) confirmed a case in the South West of England, although did not name Alan.
They said, “Bird-to-human transmission of avian flu is very rare and has previously only occurred a small number of times in the UK.
“The person acquired the infection from very close, regular contact with a large number of infected birds, which they kept in and around their home over a prolonged period of time.
“The risk to the wider public from avian flu continues to be very low. However, people should not touch sick or dead birds.
“The case was detected after APHA identified an outbreak of outbreak of the H5N1 strain of avian flu in their flock of birds.
“Their infection was identified through the routine monitoring which is conducted on anyone who has close contact with infected birds.
“The infected birds have all been culled.”