I hope you had a wonderful, safe holiday season, Christmas and new year. Omicron is spreading like wild fire. It is in the news 24-hours a day. So, I thought I will write about something which has been in my mind for a while. This illness is as mysterious as COVID-19. Luckily, it has not affected millions of people. It is called Havana Syndrome.
Havana Syndrome is a set of unexplained medical symptoms experienced by U.S. and Canadian government officials and military and intelligence personnel. This was first reported by the U.S. and Canadian embassy staff in Havana, Cuba in 2016. Since then, it has been reported from many other countries, affecting diplomats and non-diplomats including children.
Individuals started falling ill, many after hearing strange sounds and experiencing bizarre physical sensations, loss of balance with cognitive changes along with symptoms of mild traumatic brain injury.
A group of Canadian diplomats is accusing Canada’s government of withholding information about what the diplomats say are three new cases of brain injury resulting from Havana Syndrome that have been identified in the past two years.
They say that since March 2020, a total of 25 Canadian diplomats have been evaluated for potential brain injury by experts at Dalhousie University.
Media report says so far roughly 200 U.S. diplomats, intelligence officers, military officers and other government personnel, mostly based abroad, have experienced a strange and often debilitating set of symptoms.
Canada, like the U.S., has said it hasn’t determined a cause or culprit for what the U.S. initially deemed targeted attacks. A study commissioned by Canada’s government pointed the finger at likely overexposure to pesticides in Cuba, while a report by the U.S. National Academies of Science said the mysterious neurological symptoms are consistent with directed microwave energy and raised the possibility of a microwave weapon.
Cuba has denied any responsibility for the symptoms suffered by diplomats or having weapons that could produce such symptoms.
It has been more than five years since Havana Syndrome has been in the news. Do we know where did the illness start from? What is the cause – viral, bacterial, or psychological? Is Cuban, Chinese or Russian government involved? Is there a cure for the illness?
Symptomatic presentation varies. The symptoms range in severity from pain and ringing in the ears to cognitive difficulties. Other symptoms include dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, and memory loss of varying severity. In some cases, diplomats and intelligence officers have left active service due to complications from the condition.
What are the leading theories as to what causes the syndrome?
This could be due to mass hysteria caused by anxiety and fear of the unknown. Second theory is this could be due to brain damage caused by microwave energy. Third theory is brain damage caused by ultrasound energy.
Ultrasound energy can cause permanent loss of hearing, problems with orientation and balance, tinnitus, and injury to the ear. This does not sound so different from the symptoms of the Havana Syndrome.
Several U.S. and Canadian intelligence and scientific experts are investigating this mysterious illness and try and determine the mechanism used in the attack. Diagnosis has been difficult because there have been so many different symptoms and some of them are subjective and difficult to measure. The diversity of symptoms also suggests a psychological rather than physical cause.
Recently, President Biden signed the Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks (HAVANA) Act, which authorizes additional medical and financial support for intelligence officers and diplomats affected by the syndrome.
CIA Director William Burns was quoted in the media saying, “I’m certainly persuaded that what our officers and some family members, as well as other U.S. government employees, have experienced is real, and it’s serious.”
Canadian diplomats, their spouses and children, who were based in Havana and were affected by this illness are suing the federal government for $28 million. We will see what happens.
Be safe and have a wonderful year.
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