Pesticide, Not “Sonic Attacks” Cause of US, Canadian Diplomats Illness in Cuba

  • Our Bureau
  • 09:37 AM, September 21, 2019
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Pesticide, Not “Sonic Attacks” Cause of US, Canadian Diplomats Illness in Cuba
Fumigation with chemicals: image for reference

The dreaded ‘Havana syndrome’ where some 40 US and Canadian diplomats experienced unexplained sickness while on posting to Havana in 2016-2018 has been traced to pesticides and not some ‘secret weapon’ deployed by the Cuban secret service.

Pesticides sprayed as part of an anti-Zika virus fumigation campaign in Cuba was the likely cause of an unexplained illness of United States and Canadian diplomats which Washington blamed on a “Sonic Attack.”

The incidents took place from late 2016 through 2018 causing illness similar to that experienced during a high pitched sound or sonic attack. The Trump administration was quick to accuse the Cuban government of having attacked the diplomats and their families with a 'secret weapon.' Canada has refrained from such charges.

US intelligence sources leaked stories in the media attributing the symptoms to that caused by sonic or microwave weapons. Several leading publications had carried detailed reports of how sonic blast affects humans.

Pesticide, Not “Sonic Attacks” Cause of US, Canadian Diplomats Illness in Cuba
'Soundtank' sonic weapon: Image for reference

However, a medical study in Canada on the affected diplomats and a pet dog has found that it was not "sonic attacks" but likely pesticide fumigation against the Zika virus in Cuba that caused some 40 US and Canadian diplomats and family members in Havana to fall ill, Reuters reported Friday.

The study commissioned by the Canadian government studied the cause of the diplomats' cognitive ailments, ranging from dizziness and blurred vision to memory loss and difficulty concentrating.

The United States in 2017 had reduced its embassy staff to a minimum and Canada followed later, citing danger posed to staff from what has become known as the "Havana Syndrome."

Researchers affiliated with the Brain Repair Center at Dalhousie University and the Nova Scotia Health Authority studied Canadian victims and the brain of a pet dog after its demise in Canada, Reuters reported.

Pesticide, Not “Sonic Attacks” Cause of US, Canadian Diplomats Illness in Cuba
Zika virus transmission: Image for reference

The study included diplomats for whom there was baseline medical testing from before their postings in Havana, so as to better compare with the tests from afterwards. Canada started implementing the practice after diplomats first started complaining of sickness.

The researchers said they had detected different levels of brain damage in an area that causes symptoms reported by the diplomats and which is susceptible to neurotoxins. They then concluded that cholinesterase, a key enzyme required for the proper functioning of the nervous system, was being blocked there.

Some pesticides work by inhibiting cholinesterase, the report said, and during the 2016-2018 period when diplomats became ill, fumigation in Cuba was stepped up due to the Zika epidemic in the Caribbean.

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