Businesshala News Exclusive | U.S. Embassy Staff in Colombia Struck With Havana Syndrome Ahead of Blinken Visit

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US official said there were at least two known cases of the mysterious neurological disease

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Embassy staff were initially alerted via email to “an unexplained health incident” in mid-September. A subsequent email on October 1 informed embassy personnel that the Office of Regional Security was investigating “additional asymptomatic health incidents”, the US government’s term for illness.

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The October email said that “there is no stigma in reporting any health-related event in which the underlying cause is not known.”

A US official said there were at least two known cases, both US citizens, but many more are believed to have been affected. This official said at least one family had been taken out of the country for treatment and that concerns have become “more serious” in recent days.

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“There was definitely a family, including one with minor injuries,” said a person with knowledge of the situation at the embassy. “Adults sign up for what they sign up for and the risks that come with it…. Targeting or accidentally hitting children should also be a hard red line.”

Several officials said Mr Blinken is expected to visit Bogota early next week as part of a tour of Latin America. The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The US embassy in Bogota declined to comment.

If verified, the attacks would be the latest to coincide with a trip abroad by senior US officials. In August, Vice President Kamala Harris delayed her arrival after reports of an incident targeting a US official in Vietnam. A US official said last month, an aide traveling to India with CIA Director William Burns reported symptoms and sought medical help.

Unexplained health events are known as Havana syndrome because they first surfaced among US diplomats and intelligence officials in Cuba in late 2016. Symptoms include dizziness, headache, fatigue, nausea, anxiety, cognitive difficulties, ringing in the head and memory loss.

Since then there have also been reports of attacks in China, Austria, Germany and Serbia. While about 200 US government employees have been affected, officials warn that an accurate count is difficult to determine because each case must be medically verified and some individuals’ symptoms have other explanations.

Five years after the first symptoms emerged, the US government has yet to determine who is behind the attacks and what mechanisms or mechanisms are being used.

Word that people at the embassy were targeted is closely related to workers at the sprawling US compound, which is located on a major road not far from Bogota’s airport. The US embassy in Bogota is one of the largest in the world, with strong intelligence and antidrug operations working to thwart cocaine smuggling operations in the region and conflict with leftist regimes in neighboring Venezuela.

Another person with knowledge of the cases said intelligence officials were also among those affected. The person was not clear how many were affected, but he said it was not a large number of people.

In what is believed to be an attack, its victims have heard grinding sounds or felt their heads vibrate, which officials are still unable to pinpoint the source of. “The whole situation is bizarre,” said the person.

Vivian Salama at [email protected] and Juan Forero at [email protected]

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