Canada to pull diplomats' families from Cuba embassy amid mysterious illness

Senior Canada official cites fears of new kind of brain injury
Ten Canadian personnel have been found to have symptoms
Reuters in Ottawa

Mon 16 Apr 2018 18.15 EDTLast modified on Mon 16 Apr 2018 18.38 EDT
Canada will remove families of diplomats posted at its embassy in Cuba as the cause of unusual health symptoms is still unknown, though information received from medical specialists has raised concerns of a new type of acquired brain injury, a senior Canadian government official said on Monday.

Canada is continuing to investigate the cause of the symptoms that were first reported by Canadians connected to the Havana embassy in 2017 and have also affected US diplomats in Cuba.

Fresh row over mysterious sickness affecting US diplomats in Cuba

The symptoms, which include dizziness, headaches and nausea, have been found in 10 of the 27 Canadian personnel and family members that initially received medical testing, the official said.

While there have been no new incidents since the autumn of 2017, diplomatic families that have returned to Canada have continued to experience symptoms. In some cases, the symptoms have lessened in intensity before returning, the official said.

Canada has also recently received information from Canadian and American medical specialists that raised concerns of a possible type of acquired brain injury, the official said, adding that initial theories of a sonic attack first raised by US officials last year or mass psychosomatic causes are now considered to be improbable.

Air and water quality tests of staff quarters in Havana did not indicate a cause for the health problems, the official told reporters.

Because of the uncertainty, Canada’s embassy in Cuba will be designated as an unaccompanied post, meaning diplomats will not be accompanied by their families, the government said in a separate statement.

Mass hysteria may explain 'sonic attacks' in Cuba, say top neurologists

The US state department said last August that Americans linked to its embassy in Cuba had experienced physical symptoms caused by unspecified “incidents” starting as far back as late 2016.

The United States said in March it was making permanent last year’s decision to slash staffing at its Havana embassy by around two-thirds as the alleged health incidents among its diplomats remained unsolved.

Cuban officials have denied any involvement or any knowledge of what was behind the incidents. Canada has generally enjoyed good relations with Cuba, even as the United States mounted a decades-long economic blockade against the country.