Washington/Beijing, June 7 (IANS) The US State Department is evacuating several Americans from China amid health concerns about mysterious symptoms arising after unusual noises detected by US diplomats and their families working in the consulate in Guangzhou.
After initial screenings by a medical team dispatched last month when the first incident was reported, the State Department has sent a number of affected people to the US for further evaluation, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on Wednesday.
“US medical professionals will continue to conduct full evaluations to determine the cause of the reported symptoms and whether the findings are consistent with those noted in previously affected government personnel or possibly completely unrelated,” Nauert said.
The evacuation was the first sign that the unexplained ailments previously known to have afflicted only one US government employee in China have now broadened and threaten to become a full-blown health crisis like the one that affected at least 24 American diplomats and their families in Cuba.
The latest round of evacuations began on Wednesday in China. More diplomats and their dependents are expected to be sent home in coming days.
On May 23, the State Department issued a health alert for China after revealing that one employee of the Guangzhou consulate had reported hearing strange noises and exhibiting symptoms of brain injury.
It described his experience as “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure”, and ordered the employee’s evacuation, The Washington Post reported.
Last month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted the striking similarities between the one reported case in China and those experienced by at least 24 Americans connected to the US Embassy in Havana.
Many of them were diagnosed with signs of minor brain trauma, like concussions, after hearing eerily disturbing noises starting in late 2016 and continuing through most of last year.
In response, Washington downsized the US diplomatic staff in Havana and prohibited families from joining the diplomats who stayed.
The country also expelled 15 Cuban diplomats in retaliation, accusing Cuba of failing to protect American envoys.