Medical mystery in China: Are Canadian diplomats affected?
Jackie Dunham, CTVNews.ca
Published Thursday, June 7, 2018 8:49AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, June 7, 2018 4:43PM EDT
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 U.S. government workers in Cuba.
On Wednesday, the U.S. State Department evacuated at least two more American workers experiencing unusual health symptoms from their consulate in Guangzhou, China. These follow an earlier evacuation of a U.S. government employee in April who reported experiencing “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure,” according to the State Department.
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 health, safety and security of our diplomatic staff and their families abroad is our top priority,” the statement says. “We are in contact with U.S. officials and are closely monitoring developments.
In May, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the symptoms experienced by the American worker evacuated from China in April were the same as those exhibited by diplomats in Cuba during testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“We are working to figure out what took place, both in Havana and now in China as well,” he said.
Early tests showed that the American worker in China had similar medical results to someone who has experienced a mild traumatic brain injury or concussion.
A U.S. medical team has been screening more personnel and their family members who work in Guangzhou this week in order to determine who may have been affected. A spokesperson for the State Department confirmed to The Associated Press that “a number of individuals” had been brought to the U.S. for further testing.
The evacuated Americans have been transferred to the same facility at the University of Pennsylvania where the government workers in Cuba were sent, an unnamed U.S. official told The Associated Press.
For its part, China says it has no information concerning the illnesses.
Beginning in 2016, at least 10 Canadian workers and 24 U.S. Embassy employees working in Havana, Cuba showed mysterious health symptoms related to unexplained sounds. The symptoms included dizziness, nausea, headaches, hearing loss, and inability to concentrate.
In October, the U.S. State Department ordered non-essential embassy workers and their families to evacuate Havana out of concern the mysterious illness was the result of a targeted sonic attack. The Canadian government followed suit in April and directed the families of diplomatic staff in Cuba to return home.
With files from The Associated Press