‘Havana Syndrome’: Senate votes unanimously to support victims as mysterious illness raises concerns

Condition first surfaced among more than 40 US Embassy staff in Cuba in 2016

Louise Hall
Tuesday 08 June 2021 14:08 BST
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A bill offering financial support to US government employees who have suffered brain injuries as a result of “likely directed energy attacks” has unanimously passed the Senate.

The HAVANA Act, which passed on Monday, would give agency heads additional authority to provide financial and medical support to those suffering from the so-called Havana Syndrome.

Speculation surrounding the mysterious illness has provoked intrigue since 2016 when employees of the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, reported experiencing unusual and unexplained symptoms.

Public servants both on US soil and abroad have reported symptoms including severe headaches, dizziness, tinnitus, visual and hearing problems, vertigo, and cognitive difficulties.

The New York Times reported last month that the mysterious condition has affected more than 130 US personnel, more than was previously thought.

The newspaper also reported that some people have even endured chronic, potentially irreversible symptoms which may be permanent, such as long-term brain injuries.

“Far too many ‘Havana Syndrome’ victims have had to battle the bureaucracy to receive care for their debilitating injuries,” Senator Susanne Collins, one of the lawmakers who led the new legislation, said in a statement.

She added: “American personnel who have undergone these attacks while serving our country should be treated the same way we would treat a soldier who suffered a traumatic injury on the battlefield.”

The new bill passed without any objections, reports said. It outlines that the CIA and State Department will be required to create regulations detailing fair and equitable criteria for payment.

The administration was reported to have intensified its investigation into the instances to determine what or who is responsible for the illness and whether they can be constituted as attacks.

The move comes after CNN reported in April that two incidents had occurred on US soil, one being on the south side of the White House lawn in November.

Reports have said that federal agencies investigating the incidents have reached no concrete conclusions regarding the causes.

Politico reported in the same month that defense officials have said it was possible Russia was behind the attacks. Russia has denied any responsibility.

While the root of the attacks is still unknown, one State Department-sponsored study found they likely were the result of microwave energy attacks.

In December last year, the report by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine said the most likely source of the illness was “directed, pulsed radiofrequency energy.”

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