U.S. Employee in China Hit With Sound Sensations, Brain Injury

(Bloomberg) -- A U.S. government employee in China reported abnormal sensations of sound and pressure ahead of being diagnosed with a mild brain injury, in a case reminiscent of diplomats who fell ill in Cuba last year.

“The medical indications are very similar and entirely consistent with the medical indications that have taken place to Americans working in Cuba,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said at congressional hearing in Washington on Wednesday. “We are working to figure out what took place both in Havana and now in China as well.”

The employee experienced the symptoms from late 2017 through April 2018 while on assignment in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou, where a U.S. consulate is located, according to Jinnie Lee, a spokeswoman at the U.S. embassy in Beijing. After being sent to the U.S., a clinical evaluation determined the employee had a “mild traumatic brain injury,” she said.

“The Department is taking this incident very seriously and is working to determine the cause and impact of the incident,” Lee said in an email. “The Chinese government has assured us they are also investigating and taking appropriate measures.”

In a separate notice, the State Department said it’s not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside the diplomatic community.

China Talks

The report comes as the U.S. is seeking to negotiate concessions from China to narrow its trade deficit. The Trump administration also wants China’s cooperation in pressuring North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

In the Cuba incident last year, 21 people fell sick with injuries including hearing loss, cognitive issues and sleep difficulties in what the State Department called an “attack.” It ordered half its diplomats on the island to leave and warned Americans against traveling to the Caribbean nation. The U.S. also expelled 15 Cuban officials from its embassy in Washington.

President Donald Trump has said he believed Cuba knew about the attacks and could have stopped them. Investigators still haven’t determined the source.

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