United States staffer in China suffers brain injury from odd sound

Posted May 23, 2018

An American citizen working at the U.S. consulate in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou has reported suffering from "abnormal" sounds and pressure leading to a mild brain injury, the U.S. Embassy said on Wednesday.

An investigation to establish the cause and impact has been launched by the US State Department.

It added the Chinese Government told the embassy it is also investigating and taking appropriate measures.

In an alert emailed to USA citizens in China, the Embassy said it does not know what caused the symptoms or of any similar situations in the country.

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On Wednesday, a USA diplomat in China reported "abnormal" sensations of sound and pressure, which prompted the United States government to start looking into the incident. "On May 18, 2018, the Embassy learned that the clinical findings of this evaluation matched mild traumatic brain injury (MTBI)", U.S. Embassy in Beijing spokesperson Jinnie Lee told Gizmodo.

In the alert, the State Department tells Americans visiting China to be aware of the potential for "unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises".

The report comes as the U.S.is seeking to negotiate concessions from China to narrow its trade deficit.

In October, a State Department official said the USA had "received a handful of reports from US citizens who report they experienced similar symptoms following stays in Cuba". The state department said 20 employees were affected and blamed Cuba.

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Emily Rauhala, The Washington Post's China correspondent, reported that the State Department confirmed the USA worker's ailment was diagnosed as a mild traumatic brain injury, something U.S. officials in Cuba also experienced. "Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present", it says, urging people with medical problems to consult a doctor.

Suspected "sonic attacks" affecting more than a dozen US diplomats and family members in Havana beginning in November 2016 led to the U.S.

China's Foreign Ministry and National Health Commission did not immediately respond to faxed questions about the report.

Around November 2016, United States diplomats based in Cuba started to complain of odd ailments, including dizziness, nausea and hearing problems. Some have permanent hearing loss or concussions, while others suffered nausea, headaches and ear-ringing.

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"The medical indications are very similar, and entirely consistent with, the medical indications that were taking place to Americans working in Cuba", Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday during testimony in Congress. The cause of those incidents, reported in late 2016 and early 2017, still remains a mystery.