U.S. screens more staff in China over mystery health issues


A number of U.S. personnel in China have been sent back to the United States for further health screenings after concerns over reports of mysterious acoustic incidents similar to the Cuba "sonic attacks".

The New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing officials, that U.S. diplomatic staff and their families in the southern Chinese city have been undergoing checks administered by a team of medics who were dispatched to China specifically for that goal.

Heather Nauert, a State Department spokeswoman, said in a statement that the individuals from the USA office in Guangzhou were returned home for further evaluation, Reuters reported.

A department spokesperson said the agency was not specifying the exact number of people evacuated, saying it was due to medical privacy concerns.

It was reported earlier this week that the State Department has established a dedicated taskforce to look into the "unexplained health incidents" with USA diplomats, which have become of a growing concern to the White House.

So far, 24 U.S. government personnel and family members who served in Cuba and one employee in China have suffered symptoms of the unusual sickness, the State department has said. The Guangzhou employee was found to have similar symptoms on May 16.

In 2017, 24 diplomats and their family members left Cuba after suffering from unexplained symptoms including dizziness, headaches, cognitive issues, and visual problems.

There are roughly 170 American diplomats or employees in Guangzhou, as well as their family members, and a senior U.S. official said a sizeable number had undergone or would soon undergo testing by the State Department doctors.

One of the study's authors, Randel Swanson, described the symptoms as being "like a concussion without a concussion". Most of the incidents were accompanied by weird, unexplained sounds that initially led USA investigators to suspect a sonic attack. "Officials who have been briefed on the inquiry described it as having made strikingly little progress in answering the basic questions of the case, with frustrated Federal Bureau of Investigation agents reporting that they are running out of rocks to overturn". The Times reported that the illnesses frayed some diplomatic relations with Cuba, but the recent reports have led others to consider if another country may be involved, including China or Russian Federation. Cuba has denied involvement.

"I think that if there is any problem, the United States can communicate with the Chinese side, and China will continue to adopt a responsible attitude and conduct a serious investigation", she said. The foreign ministry said it takes its obligation to protect foreign diplomats seriously and is open to conducting further investigations if requested by the U.S.

The Associated Press reported on Thursday that the individuals tested are being brought to the University of Pennsylvania, where the victims of the Havana attacks were also studied and treated.

A health alert has been issued by the U.S. embassy in Guangzhou, warning Americans living or working in China to take action if "unusual sounds or piercing noises" are heard.