Gov. employee in China reported strange sounds, pressure

Kelvin Reese
May 23, 2018

The State Department said an email notice Wednesday, May 23, 2018, that a US government employee in southern China reported abnormal sensations of sound and pressure, recalling similar experiences among American diplomats in Cuba who later fell ill.

Embassy spokeswoman Jinnie Lee told USA media the employee suffered a mild traumatic brain injury while working at the U.S. consulate in the city of Guangzhou.

According to the alert issued by the US State Department on Wednesday, the cause of the injuries to the employee in China remains unknown, but officials were not aware of other similar symptoms among the diplomatic community in the country.

But it did issue a warning Wednesday: "While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source".

In November 2016, U.S. diplomatic staff in Cuba said they began to experience symptoms and were subsequently treated for hearing loss, dizziness, balance problems and insomnia, all of which occurred after their exposure to alleged acoustic attacks.

U.S. officials have issued a health alert in China following the incident.

In October, a State Department official said the USA had "received a handful of reports from US citizens who report they experienced similar symptoms following stays in Cuba". "Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present", the emailed alert said.

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In an emailed notice to American citizens in China, the department said it wasn't now known what caused the symptoms in the city of Guangzhou, where an American consulate is located. Ten Canadian diplomats and their relatives also suffered a odd illness.

The spokeswoman, Jinnie Lee, said the department is taking the incident "very seriously".

The employee was sent to the United States for evaluation and treatment.

China's Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Both the US State Department and the Chinese government were investigating the incident, the embassy said.

Initially officials suspected the Americans had been targeted by some sort of acoustic weapon, although in public senior officials were more cautious, speaking of "health attacks". The State Department ultimately confirmed 21 cases in Cuba. Media reports have suggested that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not been able to verify any evidence to support the sonic weapon theory. Symptoms included headaches and hearing loss.

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