More US diplomats fall ill in China after hearing 'odd noises'

Marsha Scott
June 8, 2018

They are in addition to a USA worker in Guangzhou who was evacuated earlier, as the Trump administration had already disclosed.

The consulate is the largest by far in China, and is a major site for the issuing of visas for travel to the United States.

The cases in China have broadened a medical mystery that started in 2016, when American Embassy employees and their family members began falling ill in Havana.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo released a statement on Tuesday saying the department established a task force last month "to direct a multi-agency response to the unexplained health incidents". The team arrived earlier this week, and Nauert said the medical screenings were ongoing.

A US government official there reiterated that there had been only one confirmed case in China, announced last month, and the State Department was offering screening to anyone in the USA embassy or consulates in China who requested it.

There are roughly 170 American diplomats or employees in Guangzhou, as well as their family members, and a senior USA official said a sizeable number had undergone or would soon undergo testing by the State Department doctors.

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After confirming one government employee had "suffered a medical incident" in the southern Chinese city, the department deployed a team to screen employees and family members at its consulate there, spokeswoman Heather Nauert said in a statement on Wednesday.

The State Department did not provide names or exact numbers, but Mark Lenzi, a Foreign Service officer, told the Washington Post that he and his family are among those being evacuated. Then he, his wife, and their 3-year-old son began experiencing excruciating headaches, sleeplessness, and nausea.

It said it was taking the reports seriously, but did not yet know the cause, and warned staff to move to a safe place if they encountered any "unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises". In response, it downsized the US diplomatic staff in Havana and prohibited families from joining the diplomats who stayed. Many of the Cubans I spoke with seemed confident the sonic attacks had been invented by the U.S. diplomatic community in Havana as an excuse to withdraw their staff in the face of rising tensions with Washington.

Many Americans who heard odd noises in Cuba were diagnosed with minor brain trauma, like concussions.

Separately, a group of researchers at the University of MI suggested that a poorly engineered ultrasonic transmitter, created to eavesdrop on conversations, could have caused the injuries in Cuba.

Pompeo told congress that the medical symptoms of the incident in China are similar to those suffered by USA diplomats in Cuba allegedly hit by "sonic" attacks.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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