While You Were Sleeping: 5 stories you might have missed, Feb 2 edition

WHO declares Zika virus a global health emergency

The World Health Organisation on Monday declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus to be an international public health emergency as the disease linked to thousands of birth defects in Brazil spreads rapidly.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told reporters an international coordinated response was needed, although restrictions on travel or trade were not necessary.

The emergency designation was recommended by a committee of independent experts to the United Nations agency following criticism of a hesitant response so far. The move should help fast-track international action and research priorities.


Brazil's Zika virus outbreak worse than believed: Minister

Brazil's top health official said on Monday (Feb 1) that the Zika virus outbreak is proving to be worse than believed because most cases show no symptoms, but improved testing should allow the country to get a better grip on the epidemic.

Health Minister Marcelo Castro told Reuters that Brazil will start mandatory reporting of cases by local governments next week when most states will have labs equipped to test for Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that has quickly spread through Latin America.

The rapid arrival of Zika to Brazil has sparked fear especially among pregnant women after local experts linked the virus to thousands of cases of microcephaly, or abnormally small brains, in newborns.


British okay to genetic modification of embryos sparks 'designer babies' outcry

Britain's decision Monday to grant its first research licence to genetically modify human embryos raised almost immediate concerns it would mark the first step to the creation of "designer babies".

The decision, which made Britain one of the first countries in the world to grant this type of authorisation on one of science's new frontiers, followed months of deliberation by the British embryology regulator.

"This is the first step in a well mapped-out process leading to GM babies, and a future of consumer eugenics," said David King, director of the watchdog group Human Genetics Alert.


Football: Pep Guardiola ready for 'risk' with Manchester City

Manchester City pulled off a spectacular coup Monday in naming Pep Guardiola as their manager for next season but the Spanish supercoach said he is taking a "risk".

Guardiola, who leaves Bayern Munich at the end of the season, takes over from Chilean Manuel Pellegrini on a three year deal reportedly worth more than 15 million pounds (S$30.78million) a year.

Even though Manchester City are still in contention for the Champions League and the English Premier League title, Pellegrini said he knew City's Abu Dhabi owners were in talks with Guardiola and supported the move to announce it now.


Football: Afghanistan's 'little Messi' longs to meet idol

Kicking a bright yellow football on a gravel-covered Kabul hilltop, an Afghan boy whose pictures in a plastic Lionel Messi jersey went viral evinced excitement Monday at the prospect of meeting the Barcelona star.

Five-year-old Murtaza Ahmadi shot to global fame after his brother posted pictures of him dressed in the blue-and-white-striped plastic shirt with Messi's name scrawled in marker pen on Facebook in mid-January.

Murtaza idolises the Argentine soccer star but a jersey of his favourite player is beyond the means of his poor family in the Taliban insurgency-hit province of Ghazni near Kabul.


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