First Brit to catch bird flu tested positive after taking flock of ducks into his home

Alan Gosling, 79, was ordered to test for the disease after a local flock of 160 local ducks came up positive and were culled last week, his daughter in law said

Alan Gosling from Buckfastleigh who is believed to be the first person in the UK to be infected with a new strain of bird flu
Alan Gosling from Buckfastleigh who is believed to be the first person in the UK to be infected with a new strain of bird flu

The first man in Britain to catch a strain of bird flu has been named after wild ducks he was looking after in his home were killed.

Alan Gosling, 79, contracted avian flu in Buckfastleigh, Devon, his daughter in law Ellesha Gosling said.

The 26-year-old told how Alan 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 to his home.

The Health Security Agency (HSA) today confirmed a case of avian flu in the South West region.

And Ellesha, a mum-of-one, said the family are “in shock” at the news – and are finding it hard to process.

Ellesha and husband Richard Gosling, 47, said they have been unable to see their relative since the outbreak.

Two of Alan Gosling’s pet ducks


Gosling family / SWNS)

Ellesha, from Cranbrook, Exeter, said: “The past couple of weeks have been hell for this family. He saw all of his ducks killed, and they were like his closest friends.

“He is often on the phone to us, asking what the doctors have said – but we can’t answer questions we don’t know the answers to.”

Ellesha said Alan first began to notice several ducks of his huge flock becoming sick a few days before Christmas.

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.

After DEFRA and APHA got wind, more than 100 ducks living outside of Alan’s house on his property were culled in a bid to prevent the spread, shortly after Christmas.

Despite pleading against it, the 20 ducks which lived inside his home with him were culled on New Years Day by a team in Hazmat suits.

Ellesha says several swabs have been taken for Alan although all of the results had not yet been confirmed to the family.

Alan Gosling’s daughter in law has spoken out


Gosling family / SWNS)

They were told a test for the general flu virus had come back positive, and one of the tests for avian flu virus had also come back positive.

The strain one of the tests showed positive for was the H5N1 strain, but three of the avian flu tests had come back negative, leaving the family uncertain.

While the outside of the property has been partially cleaned, the family say the interior of the property remains contaminated until he is confirmed to be no longer infectious.

The family are keen to see the inside of the property cleared of contamination as they fear his condition could worsen, but say this has not yet taken place despite their pleas.

They say they have been told the cleaning of the inside of the house will have to be paid for by Alan – a further blow for the retiree.

Alan took ducks into his home


Gosling family / SWNS)

They are now in limbo, unable to support him or visit him as he mourns the loss of his pets, while worries over his health remain.

The risk to the wider public continues to be very low, the UKHSA said, but urged people not touch sick or dead birds.

In a statement, the health protection body said: “Bird to human transmission of avian flu is very rare and has only occurred a small number of times in the UK previously.

“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.

“All contacts of the individual, including those who visited the premises, have been traced and there is no evidence of onward spread of the infection to anyone else. The individual is currently well and self-isolating.”

There are currently 64 cases of avian influenza H5N1 in England, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), with new cases being confirmed on a daily basis.

There are also a number of cases in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The whole of the UK is covered by avian influenza prevention zones, which require bird keepers to take measures to try and stop the disease’s spread, such as housing or netting all poultry and captive birds to keep them separate from wild birds, and disinfecting clothing and equipment.

Some strains of bird flu can pass from birds to people, but this is extremely rare, according to the UKHSA.

It usually requires close contact with an infected bird, so the risk to humans is generally considered very low.

Human-to-human transmission of bird flu is also very rare, the organisation said.

Professor Isabel Oliver, chief scientific officer at the UKHSA, said: “While the risk of avian flu to the general public is very low, we know that some strains do have the potential to spread to humans and that’s why we have robust systems in place to detect these early and take action.

“Currently there is no evidence that this strain detected in the UK can spread from person to person, but we know that viruses evolve all the time and we continue to monitor the situation closely.

“We have followed up all of this individual’s contacts and have not identified any onward spread.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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