Cuba ‘sonic attacks’ changed people’s brains, study suggests

Whatever was behind the “sonic attacks” experienced by US government personnel in Havana, Cuba, starting in late 2016 remains a mystery — but a["ad-manager-551125-2"]= {"custom_css":[],"ad_details":[{"min_width":"","max_width":"","dfp_ad_sizes":[{"dfp_ad_width":"300","dfp_ad_height":"250"}]}],"ad_id":551125,"ad_container":"div-ad-manager-551125-2","ad_placement":"in-article","ad_name":"ad-manager-551125-2","position":"in_article","article_position":1,"out_of_page_ad":null,"lazyload":"global"};

What were the symptoms?

“If you took any one of these patients and put them into a brain injury clinic and you didn’t know their background, you would think that they had a traumatic brain injury from being in a car accident or a blast in the military,” Dr. Randel Swanson, another author on both studies and a specialist in brain injury rehabilitation at the University of Pennsylvania, previously wrote in the medical journal JAMA.

Swanson and his colleagues examined the patients and found a variety of symptoms including sharp ear pain, headaches, ringing in one ear, vertigo, disorientation, attention issues and signs consistent with mild traumatic brain injury or concussion.

In addition, a majority of the patients reported problems with memory, concentration, balance, eyesight, hearing, sleeping or headaches that lasted more than three months.

“It’s like a concussion without a concussion,” Swanson wrote.

Many reported feeling “mentally foggy” or “slowed” for months, the authors said. Some reported irritability and nervousness, with two meeting criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder. Poorer job performance was also observed.

Three people eventually needed hearing aids for moderate to severe hearing loss, and others had ringing or pressure in their ears. More than half needed to be prescribed medication in order to sleep or to deal with headaches. Many were, at least for a period of time, unable to return to work.

Doctors have noted that some of the patients’ symptoms are not typically seen in a concussion, such as pain and ringing in only one ear. Also, while concussion patients often make a quick and full recovery, these patients experienced symptoms for months.

Doctors remain baffled, while Cuban officials have vigorously denied that there were any targeted attacks on diplomats in Havana and said their symptoms could have been caused by other factors.

Meanwhile, more than a dozen Canadian diplomats who experienced similar symptoms while posted in Cuba are suing their government for millions.

Officials have looked into similar cases in China. The US State Department expanded a health alert there after a series of supposed acoustic incidents left diplomatic personnel suffering injuries similar to those in Cuba.