US evacuates China staffers as illness mystery deepens

07 June, 2018, 14:10 | Author: Sheila Harris

The United States has evacuated government workers out of the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou after medical testing revealed they might have been affected by unexplained health incidents that have already hurt U.S. personnel in Cuba, the State Department said Wednesday.

The US state department said several government employees working in Guangzhou had been sent back to the US to be evaluated.

"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", Nauert said.

"If there's really a problem then the US side can directly contact the Chinese side and communicate, and China will continue to conscientiously investigate and coordinate with a responsible attitude", Hua said.

On May 23, the State Department issued a health alert after a US government employee reported "subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure".

Last year, 24 US government employees and family members in Cuba displayed the symptoms, which were similar to those related to concussion and mild traumatic brain injury, according to the State Department.

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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".

The State Department said in a health alert last month that the employee in Guangzhou reported "subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure" that had no immediate explanation.

Mark Lenzi, a Foreign Service officer in the US Consulate in Guangzhou, told the Washington Post he started hearing noises in April 2017 that sounded like "marbles bouncing and hitting a floor, then rolling on an incline with a static sound".

The new cases broaden a medical mystery that began affecting American diplomats and their families in Cuba in 2016.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo confirmed the similarities between the cases to the House Foreign Affairs Committee last month.

The State Department has said it suspects the stricken diplomats in Cuba were purposely targeted for an attack. Some of the injuries, which also affected 10 Canadian diplomats and their families, resembled brain trauma. They said their experiments managed to replicate the metallic chirping sounds that USA diplomats heard in conjunction with the attacks in Cuba, raising the likelihood that the injuries were the result of ultrasonic signals.

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