U.S. staffer suffers brain injury after 'sound' incident in China

An American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem in Beijing in a file

An American flag is flown next to the Chinese national emblem in Beijing in a file

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".

Though the department has not linked this case to any other incident, news of unusual symptoms hitting USA government employees overseas will no doubt draw comparison to a rash of mysterious "sonic attacks" on US and Canadian diplomats stationed in Cuba.

The embassy said it did not now know what caused the symptoms and that it wasn't aware of any similar situations in China.

It added the Chinese Government told the embassy it is also investigating and taking appropriate measures. After being sent to the USA, a clinical evaluation determined the employee had a "mild traumatic brain injury", she said.

Embassy spokeswoman Jinnie Lee said the employee reported the symptoms beginning late a year ago and they lasted through April. At least two Canadians were also affected.

"We can not at this time connect it with what happened in Havana, but we are investigating all possibilities", a United States embassy official said. "Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present", the alert advised.

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In an emailed notice to American citizens in China, the department said it wasn't now known what caused the symptoms in the city of Guangzhou, where an American consulate is located.

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.

Lee said the employee experienced "a variety of physical symptoms" between late 2017 through April 2018.

Staff there reported symptoms including hearing loss, dizziness, fatigue and cognitive issues, though Cuban officials dismissed the idea of acoustic strikes as "science fiction" and accused Washington of slander.

The still-unexplained incidents sparked a rift in US-Cuban relations, while investigators have chased theories including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon or flawed spying device. Media reports have suggested that the Federal Bureau of Investigation has not been able to verify any evidence to support the sonic weapon theory.

The unusual trauma inflicted on the U.S. 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.

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