U.S. Issues Health Alert to Americans in China Warning of Sonic Attacks

Americans working at the United States Consulate in Guangzhou, China, developed unexplained ailments after hearing strange sounds in at least two apartment complexes, including The Canton Place apartments.
Lam Yik Fei for The New York Times

The State Department issued a health alert on Friday to American citizens living or traveling in China, advising them to seek medical attention if they experienced “auditory or sensory phenomena” similar to those experienced by American diplomats evacuated to the United States.

The alert, posted on the department’s website, said those who suspected that they had such symptoms should not try to locate the source of any “unidentified auditory sensation” and should seek medical care as soon as possible.

More than two million American citizens travel to China each year, and about 175,000 Americans hold Chinese resident visas.

The advisory came after at least two employees at the United States Consulate in the southern city of Guangzhou, who showed symptoms similar to those suffered by American diplomats in Cuba in 2016, were flown out this week for testing by specialists at the University of Pennsylvania.

The diplomats have complained of symptoms that are similar to those “following concussion or minor traumatic brain injury” and that seem to have been the result of strange sounds, the State Department has said.

In April, the first diplomat to be evacuated from Guangzhou complained of hearing odd sounds and experiencing headaches and dizziness. American diplomats had experienced similar symptoms in Cuba, and the United States said the Americans were targets of “specific attacks” there.

American investigators initially said that the illnesses in Cuba could have been the result of a “sonic attack.”

A medical team was sent by the State Department to the consulate in Guangzhou last Friday, and has been conducting tests on diplomats and their family members who request them.

The State Department has not specified the exact number of diplomats evacuated from the consulate after tests this week, saying only that “other individuals” have left.

American officials declined to say when the testing in Guangzhou would conclude. Those who need further examination in the United States have been sent to the University of Pennsylvania Center for Brain Injury and Repair, where researchers examined the cases from Cuba.

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SOURCE: NY Times, Jane Perlez and Steven Lee Myers