Sat, Jun 09, 2018 - Page 6 News List

US expands alert to all of China amid mystery illness

Reuters, BEIJING

The US Department of State yesterday issued an expanded health alert for all of China amid reports that some US diplomats based in the country had experienced a mysterious malady that resembles a brain injury and has already affected US personnel in Cuba.

A statement in May only mentioned Guangzhou, China, as the location for the health alert, although it was sent to US citizens throughout the country.

The department had earlier confirmed that one US employee assigned to the consulate in Guangzhou had “suffered a medical incident,” saying that it had deployed a team to screen employees and family members there.

On Wednesday, Washington said that it had evacuated a group of people from that consulate back to the US for further evaluation of their symptoms, and reiterated that it was offering screening to anyone at the US embassy in Beijing or other consulates in China who requested it.

The US also operates consulates in the Chinese cities of Chengdu, Shanghai, Shenyang and Wuhan.

The updated statement, sent by e-mail, changed the location of the health alert from Guangzhou to “countrywide.”

It warned of “unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena,” saying that symptoms of the ailment included dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, fatigue, cognitive issues, visual problems, ear complaints and hearing loss, as well as difficulty sleeping.

China has said that it thoroughly investigated the initial case reported by the US and found no reasons or clues to explain it.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chunying (華春瑩) on Thursday said that as far as she was aware, the Chinese government had not had any formal communication with US officials on any new cases.

China’s state-run Global Times newspaper called the situation at the consulate “very strange.”

“Practically all Chinese people do not believe that this country’s official organizations would carry out such sonic attacks against US diplomats. This does not fit with China’s basic concept and principles of diplomacy, and is inconceivable,” the newspaper said in an editorial.

People have found it hard to believe that another foreign country could carry out such an attack in China, escape China’s monitoring and leave no trace, it added.

Last year, 24 US government employees and family members in Cuba displayed the symptoms, which were similar to those related to a concussion and mild traumatic brain injury, the department said.

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