Two more leave US’s Cuba embassy in ‘potential new’ sonic sickness cases


Two more people from the U.S. Embassy in Havana are undergoing medical evaluation, a State Department spokeswoman said on Friday, after a mysterious illness began to affect U.S. personnel and family members there since late 2016.

The cases come at a sensitive time in relations between the United States and China, with the two nations locked in negotiations aimed at preventing a trade war and tensions over Beijing's claims to the South China Sea.

For its part, China says it has no information concerning the illnesses.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Thursday that its investigation into the first case has not yielded any clues as to the cause of the incident.

In an emailed statement to CTV News, Global Affairs Canada Spokesperson John Babcock said they're aware of the alert issued by the U.S. State Department and that they're working to determine if any Canadian diplomats have also been affected by the reported ailments. The Foreign Ministry said Thursday the US had not formally raised the matter with Beijing.

The State Department has sent a medical team to China to offer medical screenings to all American government workers and family members who want them.

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USA officials said Friday that they had pulled two workers from Cuba and were testing them for possible brain injury.

If confirmed by doctors to have the same condition, the two individuals would mark the 25th and 26th confirmed patients from the freakish incidents in Cuba that were first disclosed past year and have been deemed "specific attacks" by the US government. That's where doctors have been treating and studying patients previously evacuated from the U.S. Embassy in Havana.

The preliminary findings of the medical reports on the 24 personnel affected in Cuba showed they had sensory and memory problems similar to the brain dysfunction seen with concussions. The Canadian government followed suit in April and directed the families of diplomatic staff in Cuba to return home.

"It appears that we have identified a new syndrome that may have important public health implications", senior author Douglas H. Smith, director of Penn's Center for Brain Injury and fix, said at the time. There are about 170 USA diplomats or employees and their families in Guangzhou. It is also the only USA diplomatic installation in China authorized to process immigrant visas and handle adoptions.

Linda Chen, who runs a coffee shop in the area, said she was mystified as to why only certain people seemed to have been affected in an area known for its comfort and safety. "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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