Some two dozen U.S. officials stationed in Vienna have suffered from mysterious neurological symptoms similar to those seen in Cuba and elsewhere, according to reports

By Virginia Chamlee
July 19, 2021 05:05 PM
U.S. Embassy In Vienna
U.S. Embassy In Vienna
| Credit: Thomas Kronsteiner/Getty

The State Department is investigating reports of illnesses among up to two dozen U.S. officials stationed in Vienna that have cropped up since the beginning of the year, a situation that mirrors one in Havana, Cuba.

CNN reports that the health incidents impacted U.S. diplomats, intelligence officials and other government personnel in Austria, with one source telling the outlet that a handful of those impacted were transported to the US. to receive medical assistance.

A spokesperson for the U.S. State Department said in a press briefing on Monday that the agency is "vigorously investigating" the matter, but did not provide details regarding symptoms, the severity of cases, or the number of those affected.

"When it comes to Vienna, in coordination with our inter-agency partners we are vigorously investigating reports of possible unexplained health incidents among the U.S. embassy community there," Price said, "and we're also doing that wherever these incidents are reported."

Price added that State Department leadership has "engaged in a number of communications" with those working in places where the illnesses have been reported, "to make sure they know the options that are available to them."

The mysterious situation in Vienna mirrors a series of incidents in Cuba, where the so-called "Havana Syndrome" has confounded researchers since late 2016, when U.S. and Canadian embassy staff in the country began experiencing symptoms consistent with those who suffer from brain injuries.

The U.S. reduced staff at its embassy in Cuba in response to the cases and in 2018, U.S. diplomats in China reported similar problems. Undercover CIA agents working in other countries have also reportedly experienced the symptoms, which include headaches, memory loss and nausea.

A number of the cases began in a similar fashion, with Neurology Today reporting that victims first heard strange grating noises, similar to what occurs when driving a car with the window partially rolled down, before experiencing the other symptoms later.

Doctors and scientists have speculated that the symptoms could be the result of microwave weapons, which can cause sonic delusions and brain damage.

While the cases of the mysterious illness have reportedly cropped up in a range of locations, a source told CNN that Vienna is the only place where there is currently a cluster of cases among U.S. diplomats.

In his Monday press briefing, Price said the unexplained health incidents have been a priority for Secretary of State Anthony Blinken since even before he came to office in January, when he requested a briefing on the situation during the transition between the Trump and Biden administrations.

Leaders at the department, Price added, have "directly engaged with affected employees around the world to hear firsthand of their experiences." He added that the department was working on partnering with a health agency to assist "any employees that may need extended care."