The call came last year in February. Hoffer answered, and he heard: “This is the State Department. We have a problem.”
Hoffer was told that an individual in Havana was hearing odd noises, experiencing pain and ringing in the ear, and feeling dizzy and confused.
That person, and others with similar symptoms, were United States diplomatic personnel living in Cuba — and the cause of their symptoms remains a medical mystery.
In August 2017, State Department officials said the cause may have been a possible “acoustic attack” using sonic devices. Cuba officials have arduously denied such an attack.
In this retrospective study, the researchers described their findings as “the first report of the acute symptoms in this patient group.”
Beginning in 2016 and throughout last year, several diplomats and their family members stationed in Havana reported hearing bizarre noises and experiencing a range of symptoms, such as dizziness, ear pain, and ringing in the ears.
When it comes to exactly what they were suffering from, “what caused it, who did it, why it was done, we don’t know any of those things,” Hoffer said during a news conference on Wednesday.
Cuban officials have strenuously denied that there were any targeted attacks on diplomats in Havana and said their symptoms could have been caused by other factors.
“All has been speculation or manipulated information,” Cuba’s Director General for US Affairs at the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, said on Wednesday about the US investigation into the health incidents.
“The concrete questions have not been asked. Why has the US government not been ready to cooperate with Cuba? What is the US government hiding? Why is it not capable of putting forward concrete, real information that the scientific community can accept?”
The study released Wednesday details symptoms experienced by 15 men and 10 women.
They all reported being exposed to either some strange noise or pressure and then immediately after that exposure, the majority felt intense ear pain and ringing, according to the study. They all then noticed cognitive symptoms, including feeling disoriented.
The study noted that some of the findings may seem similar to symptoms of a “mild traumatic brain injury following blast exposure or blunt trauma.”
“It does not seem imprudent to speculate that a highly specific unidentified energy exposure, perceived as a sound or pressure, could be producing an inner ear disturbance or demonstrate findings suggestive of an mTBI,” or mild traumatic brain injury, the researchers wrote in the study.
Yet the injury pattern seen among these patients had some differences from the typical symptoms seen with a concussion or mild traumatic brain injury, the researchers noted.
“In addition, the low incidence of headaches (around 25%) is unusual, as many studies of mTBI show that headache is one of the most common and persistent symptoms,” the researchers wrote.
Since the exposure responsible for the study’s findings remains unknown, the researchers wrote, they could not “exclude any potential directed or non‐directed energy sources at this time.”
“The energy may be acoustic, pressure waves, you’ve probably heard of LRAD devices (or long-range acoustic devices) — devices they’ve discussed in the press — so ultrasound is one mode that could be used for this. We also could have radiofrequency. We could have microwave. We could have light — lasers are an example of it. I’m going through these just as examples,” Balaban said.
“I want to make it eminently clear that we don’t know what they were exposed to and certainly can’t make any inferences as to whether it was deliberate or inadvertent,” he said.
Authorities have used long-range acoustic devices, or LRADs, to disperse crowds of protesters with a loud, painful sound over a long distance. Some countries have used a “mosquito” — which produces a very high-pitched sound that can be perceived by teenagers but not adults — to prevent teens from loitering.
Limitations of the new study include that a small number of patients with symptoms were evaluated and uncertainty remains around the true cause of the symptoms.
“The way we view this is that it’s an area for active research,” Balaban said.
“I’m currently doing some research sponsored by the Office of Naval Research, where we’re looking at using computer simulation and a variety of physical and biological models to just get an idea of what are likely possibilities,” he said. “We’re not ready to rule anything out yet but we’re ready to find evidence so that we can rule things out. We have no favored cause.”
News credit : Cnn