Doug Stanglin | USA Today | Source URL
A number of U.S. personnel in China have been sent back to the U.S. for further tests after health screenings found symptoms similar to the mysterious “acoustic” illness experienced by some U..S. staffers in Cuba, according to the U.S. State Department.
The medical teams were sent to the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou after an employee had complained of “subtle and vague, but abnormal sensations of sound and pressure” over several months from late 2017 until April.
“As a result of the screening process so far, the Department has sent a number of individuals for further evaluation and a comprehensive assessment of their symptoms and findings in the United States,” State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Wednesday.
She said the tests were offered to “any personnel who have noted concerning symptoms or wanted baseline screening.”
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said a U.S. government employee stationed in Guangzhou had reported “abnormal sensations of sound and pressure” suggesting a mild brain injury. Pompeo said the medical indications are “very similar” and “entirely consistent” to those reported by American diplomats posted in Havana.
In 2016, some U.S. government personnel in Cuba reported hearing weird, loud sounds along with feelings of changes in air pressure in their homes owned and maintained by the Cuban government as well as hotel rooms. Although there had been no history of head trauma, the symptoms reported were consistent with brain injury.
The diplomats described the sounds as “buzzing, grinding metal, piercing squeals and humming.”
In response, the State Department initially reduced the number of workers in Havana, but in March made the sharp reductions permanent, citing health concerns. Some 15 Cuban embassy employees were ordered to leave the United States, although Washington has not formally charged Cuba with any deliberate attacks over the health issues.
Cuba has said there were no attacks and strongly denied any allegations of wrongdoing.
Asked about the latest incidents in Guangzhou, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the U.S. had not formally raised the matter with Beijing.
“If the U.S. makes formal contact with us, China will continue necessary investigations in an earnest and responsible manner and maintain close communication and cooperation with the U.S.,” Hua said at a news conference.
An expert panel set up by the State Department last year said the initial findings were most likely related to “neurotrauma from a non-natural source” and recommended further investigation.
The New York Times identified the latest American employee evacuated from China as Mark A. Lenzi, a security engineering officer who left Wednesday night with his wife and two children.
Lenzi told The Times he lived in the same apartment tower as the officer evacuated in April and suffered in recent months from what he called “neurological symptoms.”
A U.S. official, who wasn’t authorized to discuss the situation publicly and requested anonymity, told The Associated Press that the evacuees from China were being tested at the University of Pennsylvania, where patients from Cuba were also treated and evaluated.
The Penn team has said the patients experienced persistent disability though rehabilitation therapy customized for them seemed to help.
In April, Canada also ordered families of diplomatic staff in Cuba to return home after mysterious health symptoms were detected in 10 Canadians stationed on the island.
Canada said the 10 continued to show unexplained brain symptoms and that “medical information raised concerns for a new type of a possible acquired brain injury.” Symptoms included dizziness, headaches and an inability to concentrate.