Grandfather's love of birds could have contributed to his death
A GRANDFATHER who kept more than 200 budgies may have died as a result of owning so many birds.
George Hill, treasurer of the Trent Valley Budgerigar Society, died suddenly from a heart attack brought on by the respiratory disease pulmonary fibrosis.
An inquest heard the illness could have been caused by "Bird Fancier's Lung" – a condition born out of exposure to tiny avian proteins in the dry dust of droppings and feathers.
Another possible theory was Mr Hill – who lived in Eureka Road, Swadlincote and was 79 when he died last August – developed health problems as a result of working at a rubber factory for nearly three decades.
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But Dr Gurprit Atwal, consultant pathologist at the Royal Derby Hospital, said it was "more likely" his bird hobby was to blame, as there was no pathological evidence to suggest his career had played a part in his death.
Dr Atwal did, however, concede he could "not be sure".
Mr Hill's wife, Nancy, told the hearing her husband was a passionate bird-breeder and took part in shows across the country.
She said: "It was in 1978 that he started having them. He had about 200 at one point. In fact, it might have been more than that.
"They were kept in an aviary in the garden and he would do all the clearing out.
"He enjoyed doing it and won lots of prizes at shows over the years.
"He had them until the early part of this century.
"It got to the point where he decided it was taking such a lot of time up. He was going to shows and they weren't all local – there was a lot of travelling and work involved."
Mrs Hill said her husband first displayed signs of poor health in August 2010.
She told the inquest: "He was struggling to walk long distances and finding it harder and harder to catch his breath.
"He was still going out and about in the garden but was needing a rest between jobs."
Despite Mr Hill's ailing health, Mrs Hill said it was a huge shock when he died.
"He seemed fine in the morning," she said. "He had been cutting the hedge. It was very sudden when he died."
In recording a verdict, deputy coroner Louise Pinder said Mr Hill died from natural causes.
She said: "The reality is we will never be sure beyond all reasonable doubt what it was that led to his death."
Arnold Dixon, president of the Trent Valley Budgerigar Society, paid tribute to Mr Hill on the group's website.
He wrote: "He became an active and eager committee member working hard to promote our society.
"Throughout the towns of Swadlincote and Burton-on-Trent, George was a very popular and recognisable man and would always stop to talk and joke with anyone.
"We at Trent Valley Budgerigar Society have lost a true, dear and committed friend who will never be forgotten."
SYMPTOMS OF BIRD FANCIER'S LUNG
BIRD Fancier's Lung, caused by spores in droppings, can lead to the respiratory disease pulmonary fibrosis.
The illness affects 7.5% of the estimated 8,000 budgerigar owners in the UK, although most suffer a very mild form of the condition.
The illness has also been linked to pigeons, parrots, cockatiels and poultry.
Symptoms can develop within four hours of exposure to spores, but can take months or years to manifest.
They include fatigue, flu-like fever, chest tightness, dry cough and weight loss.
If untreated, in chronic cases, the heart fails.
The symptoms can improve in the absence of the bird proteins which caused the disease.
Those with the condition are advised to remove all birds and clean their property thoroughly.
The Government has warned bird owners against kissing their pets to avoid spreading bacteria, such as the food-poisoning bug campylobacter.