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26th US employee in Cuba confirmed with symptoms of possible sonic attack

Workers at the U.S. Embassy in Havana leave the building on Sept. 29, 2017, after the State Department announced that it was withdrawing all but essential personnel from the embassy because Cuba could no longer guarantee diplomats' safety. (Emily Michot/Miami Herald/TNS)
June 29, 2018
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Another U.S. employee serving at the embassy in Havana, Cuba, has received a medical evaluation after experiencing the same symptoms as more than two dozen others, and that employee has been “medically confirmed” to have symptoms of a possible sonic attack.

State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert confirmed Thursday that the latest employee was “medically confirmed to have experienced health effects similar to those reported by other members of the U.S. Havana diplomatic community,” ABC News reported.

The latest evaluation comes just one week after a different U.S. employee in Havana was afflicted with identical symptoms.

Both cases are said to have resulted from the same incident in late May that occurred in the same residence in which both diplomats resided.

The total of afflicted U.S. diplomats in Cuba now rises to 26, in addition to one other who experienced similar symptoms in Guangzhou, China.

Dozens of other employees at the embassies have reportedly received precautionary medical assessments, and a few have been evacuated for further testing in the U.S.

Most of the diplomats assigned to the embassy in Havana have been withdrawn, with only emergency personnel remaining.

In a retaliatory measure for last year’s attacks, visa services for Cubans have been halted. Cuban diplomats working at an embassy in Washington have also been expelled.

Cuba denies knowledge or involvement of the incidents, even expressing doubt that the incidents occurred at all. The Trump Administration maintains that Cuba must know who is behind the attacks, given the state’s small size and security.

“We strongly remind the Cuban government of its responsibility under the Vienna Convention to protect our diplomats,” Nauert said in a statement Thursday.

Cuba is reportedly carrying out its own investigation of the incident.

Months of investigations have taken place by an interagency team.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directed the creation of a Health Incidents Response Task Force “to coordinate multi-agency response to the unexplained health incidents.”

During a Senate hearing Wednesday, Pompeo was confronted on the lack of penalties against China for the attacks there, while Cuba has been penalized.

Pompeo responded that the Chinese response was “better” and the attacks held different “magnitude, scope, consistency, time period” from those that occurred in Cuba.

“But I am deeply aware that if we determine that we face a similar situation there, you can expect that the response that our government will take will be commensurate with the risk to our officers,” he added.

A medical team from University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine evaluated 21 U.S. employees in Havana last year after a possible sonic attack.

They discovered symptoms of “widespread brain network dysfunction” classified as mild traumatic brain injuries, with additional symptoms of memory and hearing loss, headaches, and problems with balance, coordination and eye movement.

Another unpublished study by Michael Hoffer, an otolaryngologist with the University of Miami, and his team found “a unique vestibular and cognitive disorder in two dozen people evacuated from the Havana embassy.”

“They believe some kind of directed energy device may have caused inner-ear damage,” Science magazine reported.

The State Department issued a Cuba Travel Advisory in March, warning U.S. travelers to reconsider travel plans due to attacks on U.S. employees that may pose a potential risk to U.S. citizens. It had issued a similar travel warning for China more recently.

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