U.S. diplomats in Cuba have unusual brain syndrome, but there’s no proof they were attacked, study says
Source: Science Magazine
U.S. diplomats who fell ill in Cuba are victims of a new neurological syndrome, according to brain researchers at the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). But the team was unable to shed light on the malady’s mysterious cause, which the U.S. Department of State has characterized as a “health attack.”
From late 2016 through August 2017, as many as 24 U.S. citizens affiliated with the U.S. Embassy in Havana reported symptoms ranging from vertigo and sleeplessness to cognitive impairment. Many described hearing loud or disconcerting sounds before the onset of symptoms, or pressure sensations in their ears akin to the baffling that occurs in a moving car with the windows cracked open. “They felt something weird going on,” and when they moved away from the perceived exposure, some of “the symptoms abated,” says Douglas Smith, director of UPenn’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair. The State Department called in the UPenn group after initial examinations of diplomats at the University of Miami in Florida revealed persistent and inexplicable symptoms. The UPenn team’s report on the diplomats’ health appears in today’s issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).
The coincidence of the diplomats’ impairment and the auditory phenomena fueled speculation they were victims of a “sonic attack.” Last summer, citing what it saw as Cuba’s inability to protect U.S. diplomats, the State Department pulled most of its personnel out of Cuba and expelled from the United States a corresponding number of Cuban diplomats. The Cuban government has denied knowledge of an attack and has cooperated with the U.S. investigation, which is being spearheaded by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.