A U.S. official in China suffered a mysterious brain injury — one that looks a lot like what happened to U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba last year after a suspected sonic attack, according to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
The Statement Department announced Wednesday that an employee in China had “reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure,” and subsequently suffered from minor brain swelling. When asked about the incident during an appearance before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Pompeo willingly offered up his analysis of its similarity to symptoms plaguing U.S. and Canadian diplomats in Cuba in connection with a potential sonic attack the FBI has been investigating.
“The medical indications are very similar and entirely consistent with the medical indications that have taken place to Americans working in Cuba,” Pompeo told lawmakers on Wednesday. “We have medical teams that are moving to be on the ground there.”
The Chinese embassy in Guangzhou also sent out a health alert to U.S. workers Tuesday night about the attack and gave them advice on what to do if they experience similar strange sensations. A spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in China, however, told the Washington Post that the employee had been experiencing unusual symptoms since late 2017. China is now investigating the incident, along with the State Department, according to Pompeo.
The incident in China quickly drew comparisons to the situation in Cuba last year, when U.S. and Canadian officials working in Havana started mysteriously falling ill. The diplomats experienced symptoms that varied from person to person but included dizziness, nausea, severe headaches, hearing loss, difficulty seeing, balance problems, fatigue, and tinnitus.
Some were subsequently diagnosed with minor traumatic brain injuries — although doctors still aren’t sure exactly what happened. The FBI is even investigating the diplomats’ symptoms in connection with a deliberate sonic attack, but Pompeo noted he’s still waiting on the results. He told lawmakers on Wednesday he expects a report as early as next week and confirmed the Chinese government is helping.
Cuba has denied any involvement in the attack, and an investigation from the Associated Press in September threw into doubt whether they were sonic in nature at all. Still, the U.S. has withdrawn two-thirds of its diplomatic staff from the island over what officials called “specific attacks.” As of April, only 10 U.S. diplomats were stationed in Cuba, down from about 30.
Cover image: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo testifies before the House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, May 23, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)