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CIA agent reports Havana syndrome during India trip. What do Cubans say?

CIA director William Burns has said has said there is a "very strong possibility" that the syndrome is intentionally caused and that Russia could be responsible.
Havana syndrome is a mysterious set of ailments that include migraines, nausea, memory lapses and dizziness. (Reuters File Photo)
Published on Sep 21, 2021 01:39 PM IST
By hindustantimes.com | Written by Meenakshi Ray, New Delhi

A CIA officer, who was travelling with the US agency director William Burns to India this month, reported symptoms consistent with mysterious Havana syndrome and had to receive medical attention, according to reports on Monday. "We have protocols in place for when individuals report possible anomalous health incidents that include receiving appropriate medical treatment," a CIA spokesperson said in a statement to Reuters.

In July, Burns said he has tapped a senior officer who once led the hunt for Osama bin Laden to head a task force investigating the Havana syndrome. Burns has said there is a "very strong possibility" that the syndrome is intentionally caused and that Russia could be responsible.

What is Havana syndrome?

Havana syndrome is a mysterious set of ailments that include migraines, nausea, memory lapses and dizziness. As many as 200 US officials and family members have been sickened by Havana syndrome, first reported by officials based in the United States embassy in Cuba in 2016. Several suspected cases have been reported among US officials and intelligence officers in China, Germany, Australia, Taiwan, Austria and Washington. Last month, US vice president Kamala Harris delayed her arrival to Hanoi for three hours after the US embassy there said someone reported a health incident consistent with Havana syndrome.


Also read | Austria, US probe reports of 'Havana syndrome' among officials

It is called Havana syndrome because the first cases affected personnel in 2016 at the US embassy in Cuba. A US National Academy of Sciences panel found that the most plausible theory is that "directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy" causes the syndrome. However, despite years of study, there is no consensus as to what or who might be behind the incidents or whether they are, in fact, attacks.

People who are believed to have been affected complain of headaches, dizziness and symptoms consistent with concussions. Some have reported hearing high-pitched or sharp sounds before the sudden onset of symptoms. Sometimes the afflicted had bloody noses, headaches and some affected with Havana syndrome need months of medical treatment.

Some say that the injuries are the result of directed energy attacks, others believe the growing number of cases could actually be linked to “mass psychogenic illness,” in which people learning of others with symptoms begin to feel sick themselves.

What do the Cubans say about Havana Syndrome?

Cuban scientists said earlier this month there was no evidence for claims of US diplomats coming down with so-called "Havana syndrome" on the island. A panel convened by the government with 16 experts in a variety of fields and affiliated to the Cuban Academy of Sciences said the claims were not "scientifically acceptable," and there was "no scientific evidence of attacks" of this nature on Cuban soil. "We conclude that the narrative of the 'mysterious syndrome' is not scientifically acceptable in any of its components," the panel said in a report published on Cubadebate, an official news site of the one-party state.

Also read | US officials confirm 130 cases of ‘Havana syndrome’ as CIA probes cause: Report

The report said some have accepted "as an axiom that attacks occurred in Havana." "However, after four years, no evidence of attacks has appeared," and "neither the Cuban police, nor the FBI, nor the Royal Canadian Mounted Police have discovered evidence of 'attacks' on diplomats in Havana despite intense investigations."

"No known form of energy can selectively cause brain damage (with laser-like spatial accuracy) under the conditions described for the alleged incidents in Havana,” the Cuban experts said. They also said that most of the symptoms reported could be explained by disease. "There is no novel syndrome."

The panel said it would review any new evidence.

(With agency reports)

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