More US staffers evacuated from China over mystery illness

08 June, 2018, 10:50 | Author: Diane Mills
  • Sonic attack warning issued as US citizens fall ill in China | Daily Star

A medical team was screening more Americans who work at the USA consulate in southern China on Thursday as the State Department confirmed it had evacuated a number of government employees who experienced unexplained health issues like those that had beset U.S. personnel in Cuba and once before in China.

"The medical screenings are ongoing for any personnel who have noted concerning symptoms or wanted baseline screening", State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Wednesday, according to the Hill.

The State Department had confirmed earlier that one USA employee assigned to the consulate in Guangzhou had "suffered a medical incident", and that it had deployed a team to screen employees and family members there.

Reacting to the reports of the mysterious sound attacks on the U.S. diplomats, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying told a media briefing on Thursday that Beijing had investigated the May 23 allegation and found no clue.

The cases come at a sensitive time in relations between the United States and China, with the two nations mired in negotiations aimed at preventing a trade war and exchanging heated rhetoric over Beijing's claims to the South China Sea.

Other veteran foreign policy experts have said Cuba is a playground for so many rogue actors from across the globe, including Russia, China, Iran, and Venezuela, that any one of those countries or agents working on their behalf could be responsible.

The cases in Havana were initially blamed on "ataques sonicos", or sonic attacks, and later referred to as "health attacks" after investigations by the FBI and Cuban officials failed to verify the use of a sonic weapon.

In the Cuba episode previous year, 21 people fell ill with injuries including hearing loss, cognitive difficulties and sleep problems in what the State Department called an "attack".

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Their reported symptoms are similar to those of another consulate employee, who was diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury on May 18 after being transferred to the US.

In addition to the State Department's medical team, which arrived on May 31, specialists from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also arrived in China this week to join in the investigation in Guangzhou.

So far this week, another employee, his wife and their two children were evacuated after the parents exhibited neurological symptoms.

The evacuated Americans have been transferred to the same facility at the University of Pennsylvania where the government workers in Cuba were sent, an unnamed US official told The Associated Press. One U.S. official told the New York Times that there are reports of isolated incidents at other U.S. embassies and consulates, but so far no pattern has emerged.

The preliminary findings of the medical reports on the 24 individuals affected in Cuba indicated that they had sensory and memory problems similar to brain dysfunctions often associated with concussions. The Canadian government followed suit in April and directed the families of diplomatic staff in Cuba to return home.

The US embassy in China has issued a new alert over a mystery illness affecting some of its diplomats.

On June 5, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the establishment of a task force meant to respond to these mysterious incidents. It is also the only U.S. diplomatic installation in China authorised to process immigrant visas and handle adoptions.

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