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US diplomats hit by mysterious illness

07 June, 2018, 14:07 | Author: Lucille Rivera
  • Mysterious ‘sonic attacks’ prompt evacuation of 2 more US staff from China – report

The U.S. State Department has sent "a number of individuals" from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China back to the U.S. after screenings showed they may have been affected by mysterious health problems similar to what diplomats experienced in Cuba.

A medical team has been flown to the US Consulate in China's southern city of Guangzhou to test diplomatic staff and their families, the New York Times reported.

Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that the individuals from the US office in Guangzhou were returned home for further evaluation, Reuters reported.

The department said it had sent a team to Guangzhou and set up a task force to oversee the response to the mystery attacks in China and Cuba.

On May 23, the State Department issued a health alert after a USA government employee reported "subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure". That follows the initial evacuation of a government employee, who had reported hearing odd noises in his apartment and exhibiting symptoms of brain injury.

For months, U.S. officials have been anxious that their diplomats have been subjected to targeted attacks involving odd sounds, leading to symptoms similar to those "following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury", the State Department says.

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There are roughly 170 American diplomats or employees in Guangzhou, as well as their family members, and a senior American official said a sizeable number had undergone or would soon undergo testing by the State Department doctors who arrived on May 31.

"The precise nature of the injuries suffered by the affected personnel, and whether a common cause exists for all cases, has not yet been established", Pompeo said.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last month, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said China had "said all the right things and have demonstrated their willingness to help us identify the vector which led to this medical incident". The man, a Foreign Service officer at the Guangzhou consulate, said he began experiencing headaches and sleeplessness several months later, as did his wife and 3-year-old child. That person reported abnormal sensations of sound and pressure before being diagnosed with a mild brain injury.

Since 2016, 24 employees at the American embassy in Cuba and their family members have reported similar episodes.

The State Department has said it suspects the stricken diplomats in Cuba were purposely targeted for an attack. It was unclear if there was any connection to last year's situation in Cuba where 24 USA government employees experienced a range of ailments after hearing an unusual sound.

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

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