News & Opinion | June 7, 2018 9:57 am

What’s Behind the Mysterious Affliction Harming US Diplomats Abroad?

Unexplained neurological symptoms that hit US diplomats in Cuba now seen in Guangzhou, China.

The US Department of State logo is displayed inside the media briefing room 01 November 2007 at the US Department of State in Washington, DC.    AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
The US Department of State logo is displayed inside the media briefing room 01 November 2007 at the US Department of State in Washington, DC. AFP PHOTO/Paul J. Richards (Photo credit should read PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP/Getty Images)
AFP/Getty Images

A number of U.S. diplomats at the consulate in Guangzhou, China have now exhibited symptoms of neurological illness, according to the New York Times. The State Department has described the symptoms as similar to those “following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury.” On Wednesday, two Americans consular officials were evacuated from Guangzhou.

The mystery illnesses share a lot in common with those suffered by U.S. diplomats in Havana, Cuba in 2016. Americans who fell ill in both Cuba and China have complained of bizarre, unsettling noises that could theoretically be connected to the neurological symptoms. According to the Times, the sounds “have been described variously as the noises made by cicadas, static, metal sheets waving or… marbles rolling around a metal funnel.”

Though the cause of the illness is yet to be established, sonic attacks have not been ruled out. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced Tuesday that he’s created a task force to investigate the mysterious illnesses.