What is the Havana syndrome, which has again affected American diplomats, this time in Vietnam

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, Aug 25

US Vice President Kamala Harris and Vietnam President Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the Presidential Palace in Hanoi, Vietnam, Aug 25| Photo: EFE/EPA/MANAN VATSYAYANA / POOL

On his first trip to Asia as Vice President of the United States, Kamala Harris arrived in Vietnam on Tuesday night (25), after his flight from Singapore to the Vietnamese capital was delayed more than three hours, when Harris’ office was alerted to an investigation into two possible cases of the so-called Havana Syndrome at the American embassy in Hanoi.

Havana Syndrome is the name given to a series of mysterious health incidents that were first reported in Cuba’s capital in 2016 among diplomats and other US officials. At that time, most of the staff were new employees at the embassy, ​​which had reopened in 2015 when then-President Barack Obama resumed diplomatic relations with Cuba.

Since then, other US diplomats and officials have been affected around the world.

Among the symptoms reported are headache, dizziness, vision problems, hearing loss, memory loss, difficulty concentrating, feeling loud sounds and pressure in the head – such as when in a car speeding with the window partially open.

Officials told NBC News in July that up to 200 Americans have reported experiencing similar symptoms. The sources said that there are already cases on every continent except Antarctica, and that half of the cases occurred among CIA officials or their families, about 60 in Defense Department personnel and another 50 connected to the State Department.

Recently, about two dozen US diplomats, intelligence officials and other officials in Vienna, Austria, reported these symptoms, in what was the case with the largest number of people affected by the mysterious symptoms since the initial reports from Havana. In another recent incident, an American diplomat in Berlin had to leave Germany and return to the US after experiencing symptoms. There are also cases of Canadian diplomats with the Havana Syndrome.

In response, federal agencies, the CIA and the US Department of State have stepped up investigations to determine the possible causes and culprits of what the US government calls “unexplained health incidents.” Officials in the Donald Trump and Joe Biden governments believe Russia is behind the attacks, though they have found no solid evidence linking Russian intelligence to the cases.

What can be the causes of the Havana Syndrome?

In the first investigations, into the affected Americans in Havana, US authorities believed it was an attack by a hidden sonic device, used to harm diplomats, which was denied by the Cuban regime.

There was also speculation that the symptoms were caused by pesticides, mass hysteria and even the sound of local crickets.

Four years later, the leading theory was that a possible device used to collect data from cell phones was causing the symptoms as an unintended consequence. After the discovery of these effects by rival governments, the unknown device was intentionally being used to cause health damage, reported New York Magazine.

Late last year, a panel of American scientists concluded that the symptoms are likely to be caused by exposure to a type of “directed pulsed radio frequency” energy, which could include microwave radiation. This became the priority theory for American investigators.

Earlier this year, a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), commissioned by the US Congress and obtained by Buzzfeed News, said that the health problems of US diplomats in Cuba cannot be explained by their records. doctors.

For this report, the medical records of 95 US diplomats and their families who suffered from the symptoms in Cuba were evaluated. “Basically what the CDC is saying is they have no idea what happened in Cuba,” a neurologist told Buzzfeed News.

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair performed an MRI scan to analyze the brains of 40 Americans in Cuba. They found signs of brain damage, but not an impact on the patients’ skulls. “It’s like they had a concussion, without a concussion,” one of the authors of the survey told the New Yorker.

Biden’s aides were told in early August that experts investigating the mysterious syndrome had yet to find evidence to support the theory that it was caused by microwave attacks launched by Russian agents.

Currently, the US government is working on two fronts to combat the alleged attacks: A CIA team investigates the possible causes of the symptoms, while other officials are focused on finding some technology capable of blocking the attacks, according to the New York Times.