Health: Havana syndrome reported at US embassy in Colombia

US officials are investigating possible cases of Havana syndrome illness in Colombia, days before a visit by the Secretary of State, US media say.

US embassy staff in Bogota may have been injured by the mysterious illness, which causes a painful sound in the ears, fatigue, and dizziness.

First reported in Cuba in 2016, US diplomats around the world have since reported cases of the syndrome.

Its origins are unknown, with some speculating it is a type of weapon.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal first reported that emails sent by US Ambassador to Colombia Philip Goldberg confirmed a number of "unexplained health incidents" or UHIs - the term used for Havana syndrome by the US government - since mid-September.

Colombian President Iván Duque told the New York Times that the country is investigating the reports. He added that the US is leading the inquiry.

 

 

Americans who have been hit by Havana syndrome have described an intense and painful sound in their ears. Some of the estimated 200 affected have been left with dizziness and fatigue for months. 

More than half of those impacted were CIA employees, according to the Times.

On Friday, reports of Havana syndrome emerged at the US embassy in Berlin. President Joe Biden released a statement vowing to find "the cause and who is responsible".

It came hours after he signed a new law that entitles the heads of the CIA and State Department to provide financial compensation to those US government employees who have been harmed by the syndrome.

A State Department official refused to confirm the reports to BBC News on Tuesday.

In a statement, the official said "we are vigorously investigating reports of AHIs wherever they are reported," and that they are "actively working to identify the cause of these incidents and whether they may be attributed to a foreign actor".

The news comes ahead of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken's scheduled to travel to Bogota next week.

In August, Vice-President Kamala Harris delayed travel to Vietnam after two US officials were medically evacuated from the country after falling ill.

 

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Havana syndrome: Berlin police probe cases at US embassy


 

 

Police in Berlin says they are investigating after staff at the US embassy reported experiencing symptoms of the so-called Havana syndrome.

The probe into an "alleged sonic weapon attack on employees of the US Embassy" began in August, police said.

More than 200 US officials have reported suffering from the illness since 2016.

On Friday President Biden vowed to find out "the cause and who is responsible" for the syndrome.

Those affected say they experienced a sudden onset of pressure sensations inside their heads, and of hearing strange buzzing sounds coming from a particular direction. Others have complained of dizziness, nausea, and fatigue, among other symptoms.

 

 

Several people at the US embassy in Berlin had reported symptoms of Havana syndrome, Der Spiegel reported.

An embassy spokesperson declined to comment on the police inquiries but told Reuters that a US investigation was ongoing into cases worldwide.

Mr. Biden's statement came as he signed a bill pledging better healthcare and increased financial support for victims.

But he characterized the condition as "anomalous health incidents" rather than saying it was the result of attacks.

He said civil servants, intelligence officers, diplomats, and military personnel all over the world had been affected.

The mysterious illness first emerged at the US and Canadian embassies in Havana in 2016. Since then there have been a number of similar reports.

Last month the CIA's station chief in Vienna was removed for failing to respond appropriately to an outbreak of the mysterious syndrome at the embassy, where there have been more recorded cases than any other city apart from Havana.

Days earlier a CIA officer who was traveling to India with the agency's director reported symptoms consistent with Havana syndrome.

And in August, Vice President Kamala Harris' flight from Singapore to the Vietnamese capital Hanoi was briefly delayed after an American official reported symptoms.

However, the cause of the illness remains unclear. Last year, a US National Academy of Sciences panel found that the most plausible explanation was "directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy".

And in 2018 a scientific study of diplomats affected in Cuba found that they had experienced a form of brain injury. The cause was not conclusively determined, but researchers said it was most likely the result of directed microwave radiation.

In July, CIA director William Burns said there was "a very strong possibility" that the symptoms were being caused deliberately and that Russia could be responsible. However, Moscow has strongly denied responsibility.

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