The United States State Department has evacuated “a number of individuals” from the U.S. Consulate in Guangzhou, China after medical screenings show they may have been affected by ‘mysterious health problems,’ similar to what was reported by the diplomats in Cuba.
Roughly two weeks ago, one State Department employee in China stated that they were experiencing “vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.” The described symptoms, reported by the individual were similar to what was reported by State Department personnel in Cuba.
Immediately after the symptoms were documented, the State Department said it dispatched a team to China to screen any personnel who requested a test. On Wednesday, a State Department spokesperson, Heather Nauert, stated that the employees were sent to the U.S. for a “further evaluation and a comprehensive assessment of their symptoms and findings.”
The Department did not specify the number of individuals sent to the U.S for screenings due to medical privacy concerns. In addition, on Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a task force to respond to the “unexplained health incidents.”
The Secretary of State stated that; “Deputy Secretary Sullivan established a task force on May 23 to direct a multi-agency response to the unexplained health incidents that have affected a number of U.S. government personnel and family members stationed overseas.”
The task force, The Health Incidents Response Task Force, is comprised of the Departments of Health and Human Services, Commerce, Justice, Defense, and Energy, as well as other members of the foreign affairs community.
According to Mike Pompeo, roughly twenty-four U.S government personnel have experienced the oddity. Furthermore, the affected reported symptoms such as; “dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.”
According to NPR; “The Journal of the American Medical Association reported in March that a study of 21 former Havana staffers found “most experienced persistent cognitive, balance, hearing, oculomotor dysfunction, or all 4, as well as sleep impairment and headaches.”
One of the authors of the Study, Rachel Swanson, described the symptoms as though they are similar to a concussion yet none of the personnel have reported physical contact that could result in such.
Incredibly, the United States Government has said that they do not yet know the cause but are actively working on attempting to both aid the personnel affected and uncover the source of the oddity.
Back in February, the nonprofit news organization ProPublica further described the frustrations of U.S Government personnel;
“After nearly a year of investigation that has drawn on intelligence, defense, and technology expertise from across the U.S. government, the FBI has been unable to determine who might have attacked the diplomats or how. Nor has the bureau ruled out the possibility that at least some of the Americans weren’t attacked at all. Officials who have been briefed on the inquiry described it as having made strikingly little progress in answering the basic questions of the case, with frustrated FBI agents reporting that they are running out of rocks to overturn.”
After the initial occurrence of the symptoms in Cuba, the US pulled all non-essential personnel from Cuba in September of 2017.
China, in response to queries by the US, reportedly investigated the incidences, and later stated that they could not locate what was causing the mysterious symptoms. The foreign ministry said it takes its obligation to protect foreign diplomats seriously and is open to conducting further investigations if requested by the U.S.
According to the Associated Press, those who reported the symptoms are being sent to the University of Pennsylvania for testing, where doctors have tested former employees stationed in Cuba.
The Consulate in Guangzhou, China was officially opened in 1979, though the United States has long had a presence in Guangzhou which began in the late 1700s.