'Havana Syndrome': CIA Agent Reports of Mystery Illness Plaguing US Officials

Officials at the US embassy had first complained of strange physical sensations in Havana, Cuba.

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A Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) officer, who had accompanied the intelligence agency's director William Burns to India this month, reported of symptoms consistent with 'Havana syndrome', news reports said on Monday, 20 September.

As a result, the official reportedly had to be medically examined.

Around 200 officials from the United States, as well as their family members, have been plagued by the 'Havana syndrome' – a mysterious neurological condition that is known to cause symptoms such as migraines, nausea, lapses in memory and dizziness, Reuters reported.

Last month, US Vice President Kamala Harris had delayed her visit to Hanoi, Vietnam after the US embassy had reported a case consistent with the syndrome, Reuters reported.


What is Havana Syndrome?

The term 'Havana syndrome' was coined after the Cuban city of Havana, where diplomats at the US embassy had first complained of strange physical sensations, including hearing high and low-pitched sounds in 2016, Reuters reported.

However, Cuba had denied knowing anything of the illness, NDTV reported.

After 2016, US administrative officials have complained of similar symptoms across the world – ranging from China to the Washington DC area, NDTV reported.

Symptoms of this obscure disorder include migraines, nausea, memory lapses, vertigo, dizziness and intense headaches, however, medical experts and scientists have not yet unearthed the cause behind the syndrome.

Seeing as most victims of Havana syndrome have been CIA officials and US diplomats, information regarding their medical treatments is not available in the public domain.

However, as per reports, most people who suffered from the illness had recovered after getting medical attention – indicating that the illness was short-lived.

What are the Speculated Causes?

Owing to the lack of scientific answers, theories around the syndrome state that the disorder is 'intentional' and involves a state enemy, most likely Russia, while some believe it is a form of secret surveillance, NDTV reported.

Victims of the syndrome have complained of the hearing unrecognisable noises reminiscent of sounds of “buzzing”, “grinding metal” and “piercing squeals,” NDTV reported.

According to the US National Academy of Sciences, the most plausible theory is that "directed, pulsed radio frequency energy" causes the syndrome, Reuters reported.


What the US Has Said

CIA Director William Burns has asserted that the agency has escalated its efforts to find the cause behind the disorder, with a senior officer leading the probe and the CIA tripling the number of officers investigating the illness, The Guardian reported.

A CIA spokesperson also stated, "We don't comment on specific incidents or officers. We have protocols in place for when individuals report possible anomalous health incidents that include receiving appropriate medical treatment," CNN reported, assuring that the US is making an effort to know more about the situation.

Earlier this month, Secretary of State Tony Blinken had spoken with impacted officials, as per a spokesperson for the State Department.

(With inputs from Reuters, The Guardian, CNN and NDTV.)

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Topics:   United States   CIA   Cuba 

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