DES MOINES, Iowa – Scientists have developed a vaccine strain that has tested 100 percent effective in protecting chickens from bird flu and testing is underway to see if it also protects turkeys, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack told the House Agriculture Committee at a hearing on Wednesday.
If it does, the agency plans to quickly license it for widespread production and is seeking funding from the Office of Management and Budget to stockpile it nationally.
Developing a vaccine targeted to the H5N2 virus that has killed 48 million birds since early March in 15 states, including hardest-hit Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska, is one aspect of planning for a potential recurrence of the bird flu, Vilsack said.
Scientists believe the virus was spread through the droppings of wild birds migrating north to nesting grounds. They’re concerned it could return this fall when birds fly south for the winter or again next spring.
Vilsack said it’s uncertain when a vaccine would be ready for large-scale production.
Counties still not issuing marriage licenses
MONTGOMERY, Ala. – At least nine Alabama counties are refusing to issue marriage licenses to any couples, gay or heterosexual, nearly a month after the Supreme Court legalized same-sex marriage.
A survey by the Associated Press on Wednesday found that two counties had reopened their operations and will begin issuing marriage licenses. The state has 67 counties.
The change comes at the end of a 25-day window in which the U.S. Supreme Court could have reconsidered its decision.
Alabama law says probate judges “may” issue licenses instead of “shall.” Judges have cited that language as they closed marriage license operations rather than issue them to gay couples.
Collector finds marine reptile fossil
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Researchers have confirmed the discovery of a marine reptile fossil in the Talkeetna Mountains, the University of Alaska Museum of the North announced Wednesday.
Fossil bones of an elasmosaur, a type of plesiosaur, were found by Anchorage-based fossil collector Curvin Metzler.
Elasmosaurs had extremely long necks and limbs like paddles that allowed them to swim underwater, Patrick Druckenmiller, the museum’s earth science curator and a marine fossil expert, said in the announcement.
“Picture the mythical Loch Ness monster and you have a pretty good idea what it looked like,” he said.
The species lived about 70 million years ago during the Late Cretaceous period.
The fossils are the first from an elasmosaur in Alaska.