What Is Havana Syndrome? The Mysterious Illness Affecting US Officials Around The World

CIA Director William Burns (pic courtesy: CIA)

A member of US spy agency Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William J Burns delegation reportedly experienced symptoms consistent with a mysterious illness called the Havana Syndrome while the duo was in India earlier this month, CNN reported.

Burns was in Delhi to talk to National Security Advisor Ajit Doval about the Afghanistan situation with regard to Taliban’s takeover. This is the first instance of the phenomenon being reported in India.

The mysterious neurological illness was first reported in Cuba in 2016 when some US intelligence officials and members of the staff at the embassy began experiencing sudden bursts of pressure in their brain followed by persistent headaches, feeling of disorientation and insomnia.

Those affected also complained of hearing buzzing sounds or piercing squeals which do not stop even if the patient’s ears are covered. Since 2016, about 200 US officials and their family members have reportedly experienced symptoms similar to this illness. Some were even left with dizziness and fatigue for months.

What is Havana Syndrome?

Havana Syndrome refers to a set of mental health symptoms that are said to be experienced by US intelligence and embassy officials in various countries. It typically involves symptoms such as hearing certain sounds without any outside noise being present, nausea, vertigo and headaches, memory loss and issues with balance.

What causes Havana syndrome?

Five years since being first reported in Cuba, doctors and scientists are yet to ascertain what causes Havana syndrome. Different theories have done the rounds since then – from psychological illness to some sort of sonic weapon.

However, high-powered microwave radiation has emerged to be the plausible cause, according to a report by the National Academies of Sciences (NAS).

It was said to have built a pressure inside the brain that generated the feeling of a sound being heard. It is suspected that beams of high-powered microwaves are sent through a special gadget.

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