USA screens more staff in China over mystery health issues

Erika Holt
June 8, 2018

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday that as far as she was aware, the government had not had any formal communication with USA officials on any new cases, and that it had investigated an initial incident.

The evacuations of the workers in Guangzhou followed medical testing that revealed they might have been affected. Lenzi, his wife, who also reportedly complained of hearing weird noises in their apartment, and their two children departed for the U.S. on Wednesday evening.

On Thursday, China's Foreign Ministry said invesstigators looked into the case after being told about the first incident.

The upscale apartment complex in question is said to house United States government employees and other foreigners, as well as affluent Chinese dwellers.

The department said it had sent a team to Guangzhou and set up a task force to oversee the response to the mystery attacks in China and Cuba. "We will maintain communication with the United States on this".

In a statement issued Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he's created a health care task force to look into "the unexplained health incidents that have affected a number of US government personnel and family members stationed overseas".

Last month the State Department warned Americans visiting China to relocate if they heard "unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises" after one of its employees in Guangzhou was found to have suffered a mild traumatic brain injury.

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Two weeks ago, the agency said one government employee in Guangzhou experienced "vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure", similar to the unexplained incidents - sometimes described as "sonic attacks" - that recently sickened staffers in Cuba.

On Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said the employees were sent to the USA for a "further evaluation and a comprehensive assessment of their symptoms and findings".

The employee's physical symptoms and illness were strangely akin to those reported by 24 American and 10 Canadian diplomats in Cuba during 2016 and 2017.

However, given the similarities between the incidents in Havana and Guangzhou, there is the potential for additional cases of brain injuries being diagnosed, more serious travel advisories being issued leading to a fall in tourist arrivals, and the possible further withdrawal of diplomatic personnel from China.

Many other employees at the US Consulate in Guangzhou are being tested, the New York Times reported on Wednesday, citing officials, by a State Department medical team that has been flown in.

Though no names were released, a Foreign Service officer, Mark Lenzi, told The Washington Post he would be evacuated along with his wife and 3-year-old son.

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