US-Cuba relations

Another US diplomat is struck by mysterious illness in Cuba

Total rises to 26 embassy employees in Havana since 2016 who have suffered a wide range of symptoms, including possible concussions

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 3:07am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 June, 2018, 4:08am

The US State Department said Thursday that another US diplomat has been affected by a mysterious illness in Cuba, raising the number of Americans suffering from the ailments in Havana to 26.

State Department spokeswoman Health Nauert said the diplomat was “medically confirmed” to have experienced health effects similar to those reported by other members of the US Havana diplomatic community.

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This and another case confirmed last week resulted from a single occurrence in late May in a diplomatic residence in which both officers were present, Nauert said. They were the first confirmed cases in Havana since August 2017.

She said that US government agencies continued “to work diligently to determine the cause of the symptoms, as well as develop mitigation measures”. The confirmed patients in Cuba have been found to have a range of symptoms and diagnoses including concussions.

Nauert said Cuba has assured the US that it would continue its investigation. It was informed of the “attack” on May 29, she said.

The United States has said the Cuba occurrences began in late 2016 but has not said what caused them or who was behind them.

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Cuba has adamantly denied involvement or knowledge. Initial speculation focused on some type of sonic attack because those affected described hearing strange sounds, but an interim FBI report in January found no evidence that sound waves could have caused the damage.

In April, Canada also ordered families of diplomatic staff members in Cuba to return home after mysterious health symptoms were detected in 10 Canadians stationed on the island.

Canada said that the 10 continued to show unexplained brain symptoms and that “medical information raised concerns for a new type of a possible acquired brain injury”.

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Last month, one American government worker at the US consulate in Ghuangzhou, China, was also confirmed to have been affected. It led to the evacuation from Ghuangzhou of several consulate employees, after medical suggested that they might have been affected as well.

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At that time, Nauert said that “a number of individuals” had been returned to the US but didn’t say how many were affected or evacuated.