Sunday 21 October 2018

US issues China health alert after 'Cuba-style' illness

The US said it is taking the health reports seriously. Photo: Bloomberg
The US said it is taking the health reports seriously. Photo: Bloomberg

Neil Connor & Rozina Sabur

The US has issued a health alert to Americans in China after reports of a "sonic attack" on one of its diplomatic staff.

The US State Department said a government employee suffered a mild traumatic brain injury after experiencing "abnormal" sensations of sound and pressure, similar to the wave of so-called "sonic attacks" on its diplomats in Cuba.

In a health alert issued yesterday, officials said an employee in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou reported "subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure".

"The US government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event," the US consulate said in an email to American citizens.

The notification said the department was not aware of other cases inside or outside the diplomatic community. But in an indication of how worried officials are, the US Embassy in Beijing and all five consulates in China held meetings yesterday to allow their staff to ask questions and raise concerns.

Mike Pompeo, the secretary of state, told Congress yesterday: "The medical indications are very similar, and entirely consistent with the medical indications that were taking place to Americans working in Cuba."

Heather Nauert, the State Department's spokesman, announced that the US would send a medical team to Guangzhou next week to conduct medical evaluations for any employees who request one. The incident has provoked fears of a repeat of a series of mysterious attacks on US and Canadian diplomats in Cuba last year which left them experiencing hearing loss, dizziness and headaches.

In September, the US ordered more than half its government personnel out of Cuba, and warned Americans against visiting the country.

Washington said that 24 diplomats and their family members had fallen victim to unsolved "specific attacks" that left them with injuries resembling brain trauma.

Canada withdrew officials from Cuba after they experienced similar symptoms.

Investigators suspected use of a "sonic weapon" but there has been no proof that was the cause. In Cuba, the American victims had associated the onset of their symptoms with "unusual sounds or auditory sensations".

The alert from the US consulate in Guangzhou also told American citizens: "While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source.

"Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present."

Telegraph.co.uk

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