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Havana syndrome: 4 things you need to know

M3 India Newsdesk Feb 27, 2022

Havana syndrome has been documented for the first time in India. To better understand the strange neurological disease that initially surfaced in Cuba at the end of last year, we've compiled a comprehensive guide in this article.

What is the enigmatical Havana syndrome found for the first time in India?

A CIA operative who visited New Delhi earlier had symptoms similar to those of Havana syndrome has now been identified in India for the first time. According to CNN and the New York Times, the US officer was a member of CIA director William Burns' group and required medical attention while in India.

This news came a few weeks after the US Vice President's trip to Vietnam was pushed back due to reports of Havana syndrome symptoms from several US military troops just days before her departure. An instance of the condition was reported by U.S. officials stationed in Vienna, Austria, in July.

Last year, the unexplained neurological disease first surfaced in Cuba and has since spread to US spies and diplomats in other nations such as Russia, China, and Austria. Americans stationed in Havana's diplomatic district reported feeling unwell and having weird bodily sensations in their hotel rooms towards the end of 2016. Nausea, severe headaches, exhaustion, disorientation, sleep issues, and hearing loss were just a few of the symptoms. Since then, this condition has been dubbed "Havana syndrome."

There have been 200 cases of symptoms comparable to this disease reported among US government employees and their family members since 2016. Some people were plagued with dizziness and tiredness for weeks or even months after the accident. According to recent academic research conducted in the United States, ambassadors who had been sick showed brain anomalies.

What is the aetiology of Havana syndrome?

Havana syndrome has been around for five years, and physicians and scientists are still trying to figure out what causes it. Numerous ideas have surfaced in the intervening time, including anything from mental illness to the use of some kind of sonic weapon. According to a study by the National Academies of Sciences, microwave radiation has nevertheless emerged as the "plausible" culprit.

Is it just a symptom of ongoing stress?

Another part of the paper has completely rejected the condition, claiming that diplomats from the United States were suffering from similar symptoms because of the demanding work environment in foreign missions.

According to the BBC, UCLA neurology professor Robert W Baloh described it as a widespread psychogenic (stress-related) illness. Baloh compared the scenario to the way individuals feel ill when they are informed they had eaten contaminated food even though that was not the case.

"There's typically some stressful scenario going on in the background when you witness widespread psychogenic disease. The embassy staff in Cuba, especially the CIA operatives who were initially impacted, were undoubtedly under stress," Baloh made the statement, according to the BBC. "Hyper-aware" and "frightened" US embassy employees, according to Baloh, mistook everyday symptoms like brain fog and dizziness for Havana syndrome.

What did a US investigation into Havana syndrome uncover?

The US State Department commissioned and published research by the National Academies of Sciences in December 2020 that looked into the symptoms of about 40 federal workers. Infection, toxins, psychological issues, and microwave radiation were all considered by the 19-member team as possible explanations for Havana syndrome symptoms.

According to the study's results:

"Directed pulsed radiofrequency radiation seems to be the most probable mechanism in explaining these instances."

The report stated that "substantial research" on microwave weapons had been carried out in Russia/USSR, without pointing fingers at any one nation. Moscow has denied any involvement in the so-called assaults. Direct energy weapons, such as sonic, laser, or microwave weapons, utilise highly concentrated energy to hit a specific target.

This article was originally published on 29th October 2021.


Disclaimer- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author's and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of M3 India.

The author is a practising super specialist from New Delhi.

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