U.S. employee suffers brain injury in China after 'abnormal sounds'

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The US state department has urged its staff in China to alert them to any abnormal hearing or vision issues after one employee reported mystery symptoms.

Emily Rauhala, the Washington Post's China correspondent reported that the State Department confirmed the embassy employee had been diagnosed with mild traumatic brain injury, which USA officials in Cuba also experienced. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Embassy in Beijing said that from late 2017 to April 2018, a government employee assigned to Guangzhou reported an unusual physical symptoms.

The State Department said in its Wednesday statement that anyone who experienced "unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena" while in China should move away from the source of the noise.

A year ago in Cuba, the United States reported that some of its personnel and family members experience a range of symptoms, often after hearing an unusual sound, but the cause is still unknown.

"The Chinese government has assured us they are also investigating and taking appropriate measures", she said.

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"We can not at this time connect it with what happened in Havana but we are investigating all possibilities", a U.S. embassy official in Beijing told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

"Twenty-four people have had symptoms and findings consistent with what looks like a mild traumatic brain injury", State Department medical director Dr. Charles Rosenfarb told a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee January 9 "The findings suggest that this is not an episode of mass hysteria".

In an emailed notice to American citizens in China, the department said it was not now known what caused the symptoms in the city of Guangzhou, where an American consulate is located.

China's Foreign Ministry and National Health Commission did not immediately respond to faxed questions about the report.

However, later on Wednesday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told lawmakers that the "sonic attack" in China was "medically similar" to the incidents in Cuba.

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Investigators have chased theories including a sonic attack, electromagnetic weapon or a flawed spying device.

The victims suffered headaches, hearing loss, disorientation and some loss of cognitive ability.

The US has held Cuba responsible, either for allowing the suspected attacks to happen or for carrying them out itself.

Canada announced last month that it was bringing home the families of its diplomats in Cuba after a year-long investigation into the illness failed to reveal a cause.

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