Officials serving at U.S. diplomatic missions in Geneva and Paris are suspected to have been afflicted with the mysterious neurological ailment known as Havana Syndrome and at least one was evacuated back to the U.S. for treatment, people familiar with the incidents said.
Suspected attacks on U.S. officials serving in the two European cities were reported internally last summer to officials at those posts and eventually to the State Department in Washington. The diplomats joined as many as 200 others who came down with suspected Havana Syndrome while stationed in China, South America, and elsewhere in Europe.
At least three Americans serving at the consulate in Geneva, a city that hosts nearly a dozen major multilateral organizations, were suspected to have been afflicted by the syndrome, which the Biden administration has dubbed an "anomalous health incident." At least one of those officials was medevaced from Switzerland to the U.S. for treatment. The mission’s leadership later informed staff about the incidents during a town hall meeting. In Paris, senior embassy officials informed diplomats via email about a suspected case, the officials said, and encouraged others to report any unusual symptoms.
"Due to privacy concerns and for security reasons, we do not discuss specifics or Embassy operations," State Department spokesman Ned Price said. "We take each report we receive extremely seriously and are working to ensure that affected employees get the care and support they need."
In November, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the administration was "intently focused" on getting to the bottom of these incidents which, he said, had inflicted profound physical and physiological harm since they were first reported by diplomats serving at the U.S. Embassy in Havana more than five years ago.
Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, cognitive difficulties, tinnitus, vertigo and trouble with vision, hearing and balance. Many officials have suffered symptoms years after reporting an incident, while some have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
The Geneva and Paris cases are the latest in Europe, where cases have also been reported in Austria, Serbia and Germany. The Wall Street Journal also reported nearly half a dozen recent cases at the massive American Embassy complex in Bogotá, Colombia. Consulates in China have also had suspected cases.
Officials caution that a precise count of victims is difficult to determine because each case must be medically verified and some individuals’ symptoms end up having other explanations.
In the years since the first symptoms emerged, the U.S. government has yet to determine who is behind the attacks and what mechanism or mechanisms are being used.
Jonathan Moore, a career diplomat, was named the new head of the State Department’s Health Incident Response task force in November. Margaret Uyehara, a career foreign service officer with three decades of experience, now serves as a senior care coordinator for those affected by the mysterious incidents.
In early October, President Biden signed the bipartisan HAVANA Act—or Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act—into law, which commits the U.S. government to boosting medical support for officials who have been affected.