A CIA officer who was traveling with agency director William Burns to India this month reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome, an illness of unknown origin characterized by symptoms including migraines, nausea, memory lapses, vertigo and dizziness.
CNN and the New York Times reported the latest case of the mysterious syndrome on Monday.
The mysterious illness got its name because it was first reported by officials at the U.S. embassy in the Cuban capital in 2016. Sufferers reported suddenly hearing loud noises, losing their balance, intense head pressure and impaired vision, with many symptoms being long-lasting. Tinnitus-like symptoms and brain fog were also reported by sufferers of the illness.
Doctors and scientists, as well as intelligence agencies and government officials, are trying to understand what causes Havana Syndrome. Scientists in the U.S. say it is probably caused by microwave radiation.
The CIA believes there is a “very strong possibility” that the syndrome is intentionally caused, and Russia could be responsible. However, the agency has withheld definitive judgment until its investigation into the illness has concluded.
The U.S. has also accused Cuba of carrying out “sonic attacks,” which the Latin American country has strongly denied.
Some 200 U.S. officials, including CIA officers and their family members, have been sickened by “Havana syndrome,” CIA Director William Burns has said.
The mysterious illness has been reported in many other countries.
On August 24, Vice President Kamala Harris went on a trip to Hanoi, Vietnam, after delaying the visit over concerns around Havana syndrome. There was an instance of the syndrome reported in Hanoi that the Biden administration said targeted the U.S. official involved.
In August, at least two U.S. officials stationed in Berlin sought medical treatment after developing symptoms of Havana syndrome. They were the first cases reported in a NATO country that hosts U.S. troops and nuclear weapons.
The syndrome has also been recorded in Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, Uzbekistan, and Austria, a nation that holds a neutral stance.
In 2019, Havana syndrome was also reported in Washington, D.C., when a White House official said they were experiencing the symptoms while walking her dog in a Virginia suburb of the city.
In early 2018, U.S. diplomats in Guangzhou, China reported that an employee at the U.S. embassy in the city had been experiencing symptoms since late 2017.
One of the earliest cases involved a senior CIA officer who had flown to Cuba in secret to meet colleagues. In her room at the Hotel Nacional in Havana in August 2017, the officer awoke to a low humming noise and feeling of intense pressure in her head. When she returned to the CIA headquarters in the U.S. a few days later, the officer noticed she had poorer eyesight and a lack of balance, meaning she couldn’t drive or read. The incident prompted then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to shut down the CIA’s office in Havana.
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