Health

British bird flu ‘patient zero’ banned from keeping ducks for a year

Britain’s ‘patient zero’ bird flu has been left ‘absolutely distraught’ after more than a year of banning ducks.

Alan Gosling’s herd of 160 ducks was culled earlier this month after some were found to be infected with a deadly strain of the virus.

The grandfather, 79, also tested positive and is said to have contracted the disease from one of the 20 Muscovy birds he kept at his home in Buckfastleigh, Devon.

Gosling said this week he plans to adopt more ducks after ending his self-isolation period after being heartbroken by the death of his flock. But family members revealed today that he’s been told he can’t have any pets for a whole year.

Daughter-in-law Ellesha Gosling, 26, said: ‘When the ducks were killed, his only hope was that he could 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 come onto his land for an entire year. Daddy’s face darkened when he was told.

“It really hurt him because it kept him going. They’ve taken all his friends and now he’s got nothing.’

Lonely: Britain's bird flu 'patient zero' Alan Gosling left 'absolutely distraught' after being banned from keeping ducks for over a year

Lonely: Britain’s bird flu ‘patient zero’ Alan Gosling left ‘absolutely distraught’ after being banned from keeping ducks for over a year

Some of Mr Gosling's beloved ducks are resting on his slippers in what appears to be his home

Some of Mr Gosling’s beloved ducks are resting on his slippers in what appears to be his home

The family says they have not been told why Mr. Gosling is not allowed to have new pets. The Animal and Plant Health Service has been contacted for comment.

All of Mr Gosling’s adopted ducks were euthanized after several of them fell ill in late December, leaving him alone for Christmas.

A few days later, he was also confirmed to be Britain’s first case – despite showing no symptoms – and he has been isolated in his empty house ever since.

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

“They were like my family and I miss them like hell. I hand-raised them from chicks and some were 12 or 13 years old.”

Mr Gosling tested negative for the virus on Sunday and has been completely free since.

Ellesha and husband Richard Gosling, 47, said they have been told no ducks will be allowed in his home or yard for at least 12 months.

She added: ‘We were told his property would not be suitable for a full clean and then replenishment.

Dad’s face darkened when he was told he couldn’t have anything for a year—he couldn’t believe it.

Mr Gosling said this week he plans to adopt more ducks after ending his self-isolation period after being heartbroken by the death of his flock (one pictured)

Mr Gosling said this week he plans to adopt more ducks after ending his self-isolation period after being heartbroken by the death of his flock (one pictured)

He built a bridge over the River Mardle from his garden so that the ducks could cross from a duck house on one side to his own semi-detached cottage

He built a bridge over the River Mardle from his garden so that the ducks could cross from a duck house on one side to his own semi-detached cottage

“He’s all upset. When the ducks were killed, his only hope was that he could get more.

“He thought that didn’t mean all was lost, but now he’s been told no – it really hurt him. They’ve taken all his friends and now he’s got nothing.’

Mr Gosling has registered the first-ever human case of H5N1 – which kills up to half of the people it infects – in the UK and Europe.

Despite the fact that millions of poultry are killed worldwide, transmission of H5N1 from animals to humans is extremely rare.

There have been fewer than 1,000 cases worldwide since the virus emerged in the late 1990s. Human-to-human spread is even rarer.

Mr Gosling is believed to have started living with ducks after his divorce from his ex-wife June Axford, who also lives in Buckfastleigh.

She told MailOnline, “He never kept ducks or birds when we were together.” She said the couple divorced more than 20 years ago, but added that despite living in the same town, they never saw each other.

H5N1 has been highlighted as a potential pandemic threat for years due to its infectiousness in animals.

It is feared that as the virus spreads, it could acquire mutations that make it easier to infect people.

The current H5N1 outbreak is the largest bird flu crisis ever recorded in Britain, with 2 million poultry being culled as part of efforts to contain the virus.

The outbreak in Britain is part of the rapidly deepening crisis that is currently plaguing Europe and has been going on for weeks, sparking fears of a turkey shortage in the run-up to Christmas.

Bird-to-human transmission of avian flu – also known as avian flu – is rare and has occurred only a small number of times in the UK. However, the public is urged not to touch sick or dead birds.

Subsequent human-to-human transmission of avian influenza is even rarer, meaning the risk of a major outbreak in humans is considered even lower.

A virus that kills up to 50% of people… but transmission is rare: everything you need to know about bird flu

What is bird flu?

Avian flu, or bird flu, is a contagious flu that spreads among bird species, but in rare cases can spread to humans.

Like human flu, there are many types of bird flu:

The current outbreak in birds in the UK is H5N1, the strain the infected Briton has.

Where has it been spotted in the UK?

A case of bird flu has been reported in a human in the south west of England.

Officials have not released the exact location of the case, but UKHSA said all of the person’s close personal contacts have been traced and there is “no evidence” that the infection has spread to anyone else.

The UK is facing a particularly bad year for bird cases, with about a million to be culled in Lincolnshire, where the virus was first spotted on December 11.

Exclusion sites were placed around Mablethorpe, Alford and South Elkington in the region.

There have also been outbreaks in North Yorkshire and Pocklington in East Yorkshire.

How deadly is the virus?

The death rate from bird flu in humans is estimated at 50 percent.

But because transmission to humans is so rare, fewer than 500 deaths from bird flu have been reported to the World Health Organization since 1997.

Paul Wigley, Professor of Avian Infection and Immunity at the University of Liverpool, said: ‘The advice from APHA and UKHSA on contact with infected birds is sensible and should be followed.

‘The chance of wider contamination among the general public remains low.’

Is it transferable from birds to humans?

Cases of bird-to-human transmission are rare and usually do not spread from person to person.

Avian flu is spread through close contact with an infected bird or the body of a bird.

This can be:

  • touching infected birds
  • touching feces or bedding
  • killing or preparing infected poultry for cooking

Professor Ian Jones, a virologist at the University of Reading, said: ‘Transmission of bird flu to humans is rare because direct contact between an infected, usually dead, bird and the affected individual is necessary.

“It is a risk to handlers tasked with removing carcasses after an outbreak, but the virus is not widespread and poses little threat.

“It’s not behaving like the seasonal flu we’re used to.

“Despite the current heightened concern about viruses, there is no risk to chicken meat or eggs and no public alarm is needed.”

What are the symptoms?

Bird flu symptoms usually take three to five days to appear, with the most common being:

  • a very high temperature
  • whether it feels hot or shivering
  • sore muscles
  • headache
  • cough or shortness of breath

.

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