U.S. warns staff in China: Beware of unusual sounds

Paola Ditto
Mag 23, 2018

The U.S. State Department issued a health alert Wednesday for its citizens in China in response to what it said was a recent report of a U.S. government employee in Guangzhou experiencing "subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure".

The employee was brought to the United States for medical evaluation and on May 18 the Embassy learned that the clinical findings of the evaluation showed mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI).

Wednesday's alert said the USA government does not know the cause of the reported symptoms and has not received similar reports in other parts of China, but that it is taking the report seriously.

"While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source".

In Cuba, the us reported that some of its personnel and family members experienced a range of ailments, often after hearing an unusual sound. Ten Canadian diplomats and their relatives also suffered a unusual illness.

The embassy spokesperson told CBS News that the Chinese government had "assured us they are also investigating and taking appropriate measures".

"Twenty-four people have had symptoms and findings consistent with what looks like a mild traumatic brain injury", State Department medical director Dr. Charles Rosenfarb told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee January 9 "The findings suggest that this is not an episode of mass hysteria".

Embassy spokeswoman Jinnie Lee said the employee reported the symptoms beginning late previous year and they lasted through April.

The Chinese foreign ministry could not be immediately reached for comment. "Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present".

In Cuba, the American victims had associated the onset of their symptoms with "unusual sounds or auditory sensations", a State Department physician told the US Senate in January.

Of the 21 medically confirmed USA victims, some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing. Some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing.

The odd trauma inflicted on the United States official there recalls a similar spate of reports from Cuba, where United States officials reported symptoms consistent with a "sonic attack" or exposure to harmful frequencies while overseas.

At the time Rex Tillerson, the former US State Secretary of State, said the symptoms resulted from "targeted attacks" but he did not specify who may have been behind them.

The incident prompted the United States previous year to withdraw more than half of its personnel at the embassy in Havana, which reopened in 2015 as the two nations re-established diplomatic relations that had ruptured in 1961.

"The cause (of their symptoms) remains unknown but could be human-made", the Canadian government concluded.

Unlike their American counterparts, however, no Canadian envoy reported hearing any suspicious sound prior to falling ill.

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