U.S. says diplomats in China hit by mystery illness

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   SONIC ATTACK Two US citizen working in China have suffered brain injuries

Getty SONIC ATTACK Two US citizen working in China have suffered brain injuries

Most of the incidents were accompanied by weird, unexplained sounds that initially led US investigators to suspect a sonic attack.

The China incidents have raised fears that unexplained incidents that started in Cuba in 2016 have spread to China. The staffer had reported hearing and feeling "abnormal" sounds and pressure.

Mark Lenzi, a security-engineering officer at the consulate, left the consulate Wednesday evening with his wife and two children after experiencing unusual sounds like marbles rolling around a metal funnel that he connected to neurological symptoms. The New York Times reported that consulate worker Mark Lenzi and his wife heard odd noises over the course of several months before falling ill with what they described as neurological symptoms.

She said they are being offered to "any personnel who have noted concerning symptoms or wanted baseline screening". US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that "a number of individuals" had been brought to the US but didn't say how many were affected or evacuated. The U.S. Embassy in Beijing has issued two warnings for Americans in the country to watch out for unexplained illnesses.

"The State Department received medical confirmation that a U.S. government employee in China suffered a medical incident consistent with what other USA government personnel experienced in Havana, Cuba", the advisory read.

In October, at least 24 Americans at the U.S. Embassy in Cuba complained of unexplained illnesses that the State Department at the time called "health attacks".

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"At this time, 24 USA government personnel and family members who served in Cuba have been medically-confirmed as having symptoms and clinical findings similar to those noted following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury".

"The embassy will continue to operate with the minimum personnel necessary to perform core diplomatic and consular functions, similar to the level of emergency staffing maintained during ordered departure", the State Department said in a statement.

The people suffering from these symptoms have been treated by brain injury specialists at the University of Pennsylvania, who reported in the medical journal JAMA that they found cognitive, balance, and oculomotor abnormalities in most of the group from Cuba.

Nauert said the "medical screenings are ongoing".

As part of its response, the United States also expelled 17 Cuban diplomats from Washington, and issued a travel alert for US visitors to the island.

Pompeo released a statement on Tuesday saying the department established a task force last month "to direct a multi-agency response to the unexplained health incidents". The Guangzhou consulate opened months after the institution of diplomatic relations between Beijing and Washington in 1979 and moved to its new purpose-built facility in 2013.

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It serves four southern provinces with a combined population of more than 204 million and processes more than 1 million visa applications of all types annually. It's also the one USA diplomatic set up in China licensed to course of immigrant visas and deal with adoptions.

"We are working to figure out what took place, both in Havana and now in China as well", he said.

Aled Williams, a British teacher at a kindergarten said Thursday that the reports sounded "sci-fi-ish".

Sen. Jeff Flake said Thursday that the State Department was "trying to work through it" and it was "obviously" concerned "about the health and safety of its diplomats".

China's state-run Global Times tabloid called the situation at the consulate "very unusual". "But I don't feel that there's something to be very afraid of because it's probably a very special case", Chen said.

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