THE BUCKFASTLEIGH man at the centre of the UK’s first case of a human to catch a strain of bird flu has described feeling ‘well but lonely’.
Alan Gosling, 79, who looked after wild ducks at his home for many years, has been identified as the man who became infected with a particular strain of the virus.
Father-of-three Alan, is believed to have caught the disease from ducks he had adopted.
He began to see some of his flock falling ill in late December which resulted in all 160 being culled soon after.
Doctors then did tests to see if Alan himself had become infected despite the fact the H5N1 strain had never infected a human before.
The tests came back positive.
Retired train driver Alan is now isolated at home as he grieves his ducks and with his family growing increasingly concerned.
Alan said he is feeling ‘absolutely fine but very lonely’.
He said: ‘As far as health is concerned, I’m fine, but I can’t stop thinking about the ducks.
‘I’m as fit and healthy now as I was donkeys years ago, because looking after the ducks kept me busy and active every day.
‘I can’t believe it, some of them I had for 12, 13 years since they were tiny chicks and I hand-reared them.
‘I had to watch them being killed and I couldn’t do anything to help them.
‘At the moment, I don’t know what to do with my days.
‘Before I would always be outside with the ducks, they kept my days fully booked and that was how I liked it.
‘My ducks are all I can think about.
‘The poor buggers were all killed with no thought for the animals.’
The Muscovy ducks 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.
His daughter-in-law Ellesha Gosling, 26, and son Richard Gosling, 47, say they are worried.
Ellesha 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’.
‘He saw all of his ducks killed, and they were like his closest friends.
‘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.
‘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 the flock came up positive and were culled.
Duck expert Alan had forged a relationship with the Muscovy over a number of years and eventually took them in.
A few days before Christmas, Alan began to notice several ducks becoming sick.
Government officials from the Animal and Plant Welfare Agency and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural affairs and were called in and culled the birds to prevent the spread.
Alan’s pet budgies and cockatoo were also culled.
He has been told he must remain alone inside the contaminated property where the birds were killed while tests are being run.
Meanwhile, the family are pleading with authorities to go in and disinfect the property.
They claim they were told he would be ‘treated as if he has’ the condition until they know otherwise.
A press release shared by UK Health and Security Agency (HSA) confirmed a case in the South West of England, although did not name Alan.
It read: ‘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 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.’
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