At Least 26 US Diplomats Have Fallen Ill in Mysterious Sonic Attacks

Jun 26, 2018

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

New numbers show at least 26 American diplomats have been “medically confirmed” to have been sickened or injured by mysterious sonic attacks, US officials said Tuesday. Fortunately, there are no reports of traveling US civilians being injured yet, but the State Department has issued an alert telling US citizens in China to be on alert for any of the unexplained symptoms.

Hundreds of US diplomats and their families in seven cities spanning four countries have been tested for the mysterious illness, which first popped up in the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba, in 2016.

The new reports of sonic-related health incidents among US diplomats include a false-alarm scare regarding a US diplomatic employee in Singapore hours before the summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un earlier this month, the AP reports.

Similar symptoms also forced a USAID employee to be pulled from his post in Uzbekistan in late 2017 for medical tests. That incident also turned out to be a false alarm — but both illustrate the level of anxiety the US Department of State is feeling about these types of perplexing attacks.

The peculiar incidents first began in the US Embassy in Cuba in 2016 when US diplomats began showing health problems with symptoms of “sharp ear pain, headaches, ringing in one ear, vertigo, disorientation, attention issues and signs consistent with mild traumatic brain injury or concussion,” US officials told Congress in a January hearing, according to CNN.

The officials said that the symptoms consistently followed some type of “acoustic element,” like a “high-pitched beam of sound” or a “baffling sensation akin to driving with the windows partially open in a car.”

Then in May, the US State Department issued a health alert for China after a US official based in Guangzhou began experiencing “abnormal sensations of sound and pressure.” The employee was evacuated for medical evaluations, which did match symptoms for mild brain injury or concussion. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the sonic incident in China was “entirely consistent” with the incidents in Cuba.

“If you or members of your family experience any unusual, unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena, or other health concerns, please contact your health care provider,” the alert reads. “Symptoms to be attentive for include dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, and difficulty sleeping.”

The illnesses (and sometimes false-alarm symptoms) are becoming so prevalent that the US government has created a specific protocol for screening for the potential brain injuries. With the help of a team of neurologists from the University of Pennsylvania and a doctor from Miami, who was the first dispatched to Cuba, the US State Department has developed a formal process to screen employees for the early signs of brain injury from sonic attack.

Employees posted where the attacks have happened get a “baseline” screening, so if they develop symptoms, they can be compared to their original test results.

A medical team from the US State Department has been visiting all US diplomatic employees in China, offering to screen them and their families for the symptoms if they choose. At last count, the team had screened 200 American diplomats and their relatives. Of those tests in China, less than a dozen have been evacuated for further review by the University of Pennsylvania medical team.

H/T: Associated Press

Featured image by MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images.

Delta SkyMiles® Platinum American Express Card

Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.

With Status Boost™, earn 10,000 Medallion Qualification Miles (MQMs) after you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, up to two times per year getting you closer to Medallion Status. Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels, 2X Miles at restaurants and at U.S. supermarkets and earn 1X Mile on all other eligible purchases. Terms Apply.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 90,000 bonus miles after you spend $3,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months. Offer ends 8/3/2022.
  • Earn up to 20,000 Medallion® Qualification Miles (MQMs) with Status Boost® per year. After you spend $25,000 in purchases on your Card in a calendar year, you can earn 10,000 MQMs up to two times per year, getting you closer to Medallion® Status. MQMs are used to determine Medallion® Status and are different than miles you earn toward flights.
  • Earn 3X Miles on Delta purchases and purchases made directly with hotels.
  • Earn 2X Miles at restaurants worldwide including takeout and delivery in the U.S., and at U.S. supermarkets.
  • Earn 1X Miles on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a Domestic Main Cabin round-trip companion certificate each year upon renewal of your Card. Payment of the government imposed taxes and fees of no more than $80 for roundtrip domestic flights (for itineraries with up to four flight segments) is required. Baggage charges and other restrictions apply. See terms and conditions for details.
  • Enjoy your first checked bag free on Delta flights.
  • Fee Credit for Global Entry or TSA PreCheck® after you apply through any Authorized Enrollment Provider. If approved for Global Entry, at no additional charge, you will receive access to TSA PreCheck.
  • Enjoy an exclusive rate of $39 per person per visit to enter the Delta Sky Club® for you and up to two guests when traveling on a Delta flight.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • $250 Annual Fee.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Regular APR
17.24%-26.24% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Recommended Credit
Terms and restrictions apply. See rates & fees.

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.