A mysterious brain illness: Havana Syndrome

A Mysterious Brain Illness: Havana Syndrome

The US government is now investigating a series of health incidents that involve its diplomats and other administrative staff in Vienna. 

Since President Joe Biden took office in January, more than 20 officials have reported symptoms similar to Havana Syndrome, which is a mystery brain illness. 

Even though the syndrome is unexplained, US scientists say that it is most probably caused by directed microwave radiation.

When was it first found?

In Cuba, 2016-17, the US and Canadian diplomats complained of symptoms ranging from dizziness, loss of balance, hearing loss, and anxiety to something they described as “cognitive fog”.

In 2019, a US academic study found “brain abnormalities” in the diplomats who had fallen ill. However, Cuba dismissed the report.

The US accused Cuba of carrying out “sonic attacks”, which Cuba denied.

The recent cases in Vienna were first highlighted by the New Yorker magazine on Friday. They were later confirmed by the US State Department, as it said that it was “vigorously investigating”.

Austria has been working with U.S. authorities to investigate a spate of suspected cases among U.S. diplomats, the Austrian Foreign Ministry said on Saturday.

A CIA official who was involved in the search for Osama bin Laden has been chosen to head an agency task force investigating cases of an ailment known as “Havana Syndrome” among U.S. spies and diplomats, Reuters reported.

CIA Director William Burns said on Thursday that about 100 CIA officers and family members are among some 200 US officials who have fallen sick by “Havana syndrome”.

The National Security Agency (NSA) said in a 2014 memo to one intelligence officer who said he had suffered possible symptoms that an unnamed “hostile country” to which the official travelled in the late 1990s had a “high powered microwave system weapon that may have the ability to weaken, intimidate or kill an enemy over time and without leaving evidence.”

Featured Illustration: Nathalie Lees/The Observer

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