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What Is Havana Syndrome? Mystery Illness Now Top Priority For US National Security

Laura Sanders

| Last updated 

What Is Havana Syndrome? Mystery Illness Now Top Priority For US National Security

Reports have been circulating of American and Canadian diplomats and spies experiencing a strange, unexplainable illness, which has been dubbed 'Havana syndrome.' The root cause of the illness is unknown and now a special CIA taskforce has been reportedly established to solve the mystery.

The strange set of symptoms were first experienced back in 2016 by a number of diplomats who had visited Cuba.

Since then, hundreds of US security personnel have reported the symptoms and it's no longer exclusive to visits to Cuba. In September 2021, a CIA officer reported the same symptoms upon a visit to India.

Lack of hard evidence to go on means there are several conspiracy theories developing about the cause of the strange illness. While some have suggested it's a form of secret surveillance, others think it has something to do with microwaves - and some think it's all in their heads.

What is Havana syndrome?

Several diplomats from the US have reported hearing a strange sound in their heads, described to BBC World as "buzzing," "grinding metal," and "piercing squeals." The sound was followed by a feeling of high pressure in the head, headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue which lasted for months for some.

Havana syndrome symptoms. (Credit: PA)
Havana syndrome symptoms. (Credit: PA)

What causes Havana syndrome?

Nobody knows for sure what's been causing diplomats to experience this weird illness.

At first, it was thought the Cuban government - or another hard-line faction opposed to restoring relations with the US - was behind it. The US and Cuba started to restore their diplomatic relationship in 2015 after years of hostility throughout the Cold War. It was within two years of this that the so-called Havana syndrome began to emerge.

But that theory was scuppered when reports of the same symptoms were made by diplomats and security personnel following visits to other countries.

One theory suggests it's to do with microwaves.

According to the BBC, "A scientific study of those affected in Cuba, published in 2018, found that the diplomats had experienced a form of brain injury. The cause was not conclusively determined, but researchers said it was most likely the result of directed microwave radiation."

Other studies have suggested that ultrasound, pesticides or other harmful substances are to blame for this.

With some cases being reported by US officials in Austria and Germany, countries believed to have a good relationship with the USA, why exactly this is happening remains a mystery.

Featured Image Credit: PA

Topics: CIA, US News, Politics, Health

Laura Sanders
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