USA expands China health alert amid illness reports

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Global Affairs Canada is working to determine if any Canadian diplomats in southern China have been affected by a mysterious ailment that has already sickened a number of American diplomats and bears similarities to the unexplained illness suffered by Canadian and USA government workers in Cuba.

A medical team has been flown to the US Consulate in China's southern city of Guangzhou to test diplomatic staff and their families, the New York Times reported. Most of the incidents were accompanied by freaky, unexplained sounds that initially led U.S. investigators to suspect a sonic attack.

"I think that if there is any problem, the U.S. can communicate with the Chinese side, and China will continue to adopt a responsible attitude and conduct a serious investigation", she said.

The cases in Havana were initially blamed on "ataques sonicos", or sonic attacks, and later referred to as "health attacks" after investigations by the FBI and Cuban officials failed to verify the use of a sonic weapon. It was unclear if there was any connection to last year's situation in Cuba where 24 USA government employees experienced a range of ailments after hearing an unusual sound.

The alert came after a U.S. government employee in Guangzhou recently experienced "vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure" and developed mild traumatic brain injury, the same condition United States officials developed in a serious of unusual events in Cuba.

The new illnesses in China come just weeks after American officials reported finding their first case in Guangzhou, where a consulate employee got sick after reporting disturbing noises. The employee evacuated last month was Lenzi's next-door neighbor.

A United States official, who wasn't authorized to discuss the situation publicly and requested anonymity, said the evacuated American government workers were being brought from China for testing to the University of Pennsylvania.

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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.

In 2017, 24 USA diplomats and their family members in Cuba fell victim to mysterious "attacks" that left them with injuries resembling brain trauma. That person reported abnormal sensations of sound and pressure before being diagnosed with a mild brain injury.

Secretary Pompeo announced this week the establishment of a special task force to examine all similar incidents, which during the Rex Tillerson era the State Department described as "attacks".

Steve Goldstein, the then-undersecretary for public diplomacy and public affairs, said it took time to set up the ARB because "we were hopeful that we would be able to know what occurred", but the investigation has taken longer than officials anticipated.

The China incidents affect one of the most important of the seven United States diplomatic outposts in the country.

The US state department said several government employees working in Guangzhou had been sent back to the US to be evaluated. "This does not fit with China's basic concept and principles of diplomacy, and is inconceivable", the Global Times said in an editorial.