First man infected with bird flu banned from keeping ducks

The 79-year-old pensioner had his ducks culled when he tested positive for avian flu, but was told he cannot raise the birds for at least a year.

A man in Devon who recently caught avian flu from the ducks in his house has been left devastated after being told he cannot keep the birds for at least a year. The ducks were culled while he self-isolated to avoid spreading the virus.

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Alan Gosling, 79, adopted the flock of ducks and had been caring for them for several years. But when one of the 160 birds infected him with avian flu, he had to endure the sadness of having them all culled.

Hoping that with his recovery he could adopt some more birds, he was disappointed to learn he was banned from keeping the animals for at least a year.

Daughter-in-law Ellesha Gosling, 26, said:

When the ducks were killed, his only bit of hope was that he’d be able to get more. He thought hope was not lost because he could fill the void after losing his closest companions.

She added that the retired train driver’s life is empty without his precious birds.

But now he’s been told it’s not safe for new ducks to go onto his land for a whole year. Dad’s face dropped when he was told. It really hurt him because that’s what was keeping him going. They took away all his friends and now he has been left with nothing.

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Late December, several of Gosling’s ducks took ill around the same time the UK government was trying to manage an outbreak of the disease which was being reported in parts of Europe and Asia. Tests found the birds had the H5NI strain of avian flu.

A few days later, he tested positive for avian flu, the first human case in the UK. Although he had no symptoms, he had to self-isolate in his empty house until he tested negative. It was while he was in isolation that his entire flock of birds was culled. He said of the exercise:

I keep turning it over in my head and when I go to sleep it’s what I dream about – it never leaves my mind. They were like my family and I miss them like hell. I hand-reared them from chicks and some of them were 12 or 13-years-old.
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