A Chicken Named ‘Lurch’

Posted: July 8, 2010 by shopfrontcontemporaryarts in under fifteen
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[the following is a transcript of the first debrief interview conducted by the Australian Federal Police with Dr. Stephanie Holt, CSIRO. Obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, 1982.]


I was part of the initial group of scientists that were asked to investigate the infected chickens.

We were originally part of a team set up by the government looking at the H5N1 influenza. It really was a very well thought out initiative actually; our team was one of several all looking at ways to minimise the impact of further pandemics, specifically anticipating a breach of Australia’s sea borders by an hypothetical airborne pathogen. There were some great minds involved, really exciting, off the wall stuff. The team of engineers we had onboard were about to do some incredible things in airports, stuff with giant airbags, like in cars but much, much bigger.

The first of the infected chickens were brought to us, transported to our lab, and we…were scared. There was no heart rate, no brain activity but this animal was still moving. I mean, nothing…nothing like I have ever seen. I remember working away one morning and just bursting into tears.

Things were changing and once again science was behind the eight ball. We were all very careful. Once a virus emerges in one species there is always the risk it will mutate to find another host.

We asked if there were any other cases. We didn’t get a response. Looking back now, at that point, it was already out of control…

We named the chicken Lurch, you know, from the Addams Family? It was our way of dealing with it.

Dr. Stephanie Holt, epidemiologist.



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