Sonic attacks in China? U.S. issues warning of similar incident that injured Canadians in Cuba
The United States is warning its citizens in China after a government employee had “abnormal sensations of sound and pressure,” reminiscent to the experiences both Canadian and American diplomats experienced in Havana, Cuba.
The U.S. State Department issued a “health alert” Wednesday, alerting citizens to the reported incident.
“A U.S. government employee in China recently reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure,” the notice said. “The U.S. government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event.”
The alert went on to note the government didn’t know what caused the reported symptoms in Guangzhou city, and was not aware of any other reported incidents in the country.
“We do not currently know what caused the reported symptoms and we are not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community,” the notice said.
WATCH: Canada pulls families of diplomatic staff from Cuba after mysterious health symptoms
The incident in China is similar to a mysterious illness that sickened at least 10 Canadian diplomats and their family members who were posted in Havana between April 2017 and January 2018.
In April, the Canadian government announced that concussion-like symptoms were reported over the past year by workers in Havana, which continue to persist among the 10 individuals. The unexplained illness prompted the government to disallow diplomats from having their families accompany them during their post in Havana.
In an email to Global News, the Canadian government said it wasn’t aware of any incidents involving a Canadian diplomat.
“Global Affairs Canada is aware of the alert issued by the U.S. State Department regarding the unusual health symptoms experienced by a U.S. government employee stationed in Guangzhou, China,” Krista Humick, a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada said. “The health, safety and security of our diplomatic staff and their families abroad is our top priority.
“To date, we are unaware of any Canadian diplomat being affected. We are in contact with U.S. officials and are closely monitoring developments,” Humick said.
Canada also has a consulate in the city of Guangzhou.
WATCH: Canada has no clue what made Cuba diplomats sick
Canadian authorities have been working with their Cuban counterparts to try and get to the bottom of the mysterious illness that has also stricken a number of American diplomats who were also serving in Havana.
In a briefing last January, officials were floating the idea of a sonic attack, but are now saying it’s “very improbable.”
In total, 27 Canadian diplomats and their dependents were tested in the last 12 months after several of them presented unusual symptoms, including headaches, nosebleeds, loss of hearing, loss of balance and short-term memory loss.
Last October, the State Department ordered non-essential embassy personnel and the families of all staff to leave Havana, arguing the U.S. could not protect them from unexplained illnesses that have harmed at least 24 Americans.
Speaking in the U.S. Congress, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the incident in China had the similarities to the medical incidents in Cuba.
WATCH: U.S. senator says no evidence of ‘sonic attacks’ in Cuba
“The medical indications are very similar, and entirely consistent with, the medical indications that were taking place to Americans working in Cuba,” Pompeo said. “We have medical teams moving to be on the ground, we are working to figure out what took place both in Havana and now in China as well.
“We’ve asked the Chinese for their assistance in doing that and they have committed to honouring their commitments under the Vienna Convention to keep American foreign service officers safe,” Pompeo said.
In Wednesday’s alert, the State Department said that if citizens had “concerns about any symptoms or medical problems that developed during or after a stay in China, consult a medical professional.”
“If you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source,” the alert said. “Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.”
— With files from Global News’ Mike Le Couteur
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