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Mysterious ‘Havana Syndrome’ Attacks a Non-Government Canadian Tourist

Remember the Havana Syndrome? In November of 2016, U.S. and Canadian diplomatic workers in Cuba began reporting mysterious dizziness and headaches. Some said they heard a sonic hum prior to experiencing the problems. The occurrences became so widespread and severe, some workers were evacuated to the U.S. for medical examinations and treatment. And then … they stopped. Well, until the fall of 2017 when they began again and increased in severity. Sweeps of buildings where the workers lived – a common place to experience the hum – turned up nothing. Symptoms has continued to occur, with some victims being diagnosed with brain damage. Anti-Trump sentiments were blamed – the Cuban government preferred the previous administration – especially since the problems were only felt by government workers. In fact, the victims being government workers was the only consistent fact … until now.

“A 69-year-old woman returning from a vacation in Cuba was brought to the emergency department directly from the airport. Her medical history was unremarkable, and she had no allergies. She had been well until 2 hours before the flight home, when at the Havana airport, she developed generalized weakness, increased sweating, severe nausea, and vomiting. In flight, she had lethargy, vomiting, and urinary incontinence. On arrival to the emergency department, she was stuporous and required intubation.”

In early September 2020, JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) Neurology reported on the case of a female tourist who became sick on the plane trip home to Canada from Cuba. The initial diagnosis was organophosphate poisoning, which can be caused by exposure to the organophosphates found in insecticides, herbicides and nerve gases. Cuba uses “aggressive insecticide fumigation” to combat the mosquito-borne Zika virus, and the woman was the only one of her party to eat a ham sandwich – and the only one to get sick. While a CT scan showed that her globus pallidi, a section of the brain that controls voluntary movement, was denser than normal on both sides of the brain, she was discharged.

Was that a wise thing to do?

“Five months after she was hospitalized, researchers reported that she had ongoing neurological issues, such anorexia, “daily headaches, insomnia, impaired concentration and memory, tinnitus, and unsteadiness.” She also experienced a shortened attention span, executive function and memory issues.

 

The woman also reported feeling an imbalance in her inner ears, diagnosed as vestibulopathy, which can lead to vertigo.

 

She failed to complete testing for spatial working memory and decision-making quality.”

CTV News reports that the woman continued to have problems, which doctors finally agreed were consistent with those suffered by Canadian diplomats diagnosed with the ‘Havana Syndrome’ – and those are the same symptoms experienced by U.S. diplomats as well. While mosquito gas has been a prime non-sonic suspect as the cause of the Havana Syndrome, it has never been confirmed – especially since only diplomats suffered from it. Now, there’s a new victim – a Canadian tourist.

“Regarding the article published on Tuesday, September 8 by JAMA Neurology, entitled “Neurological Impairments in a Patient Returning from Cuba”, on which CTV News informed on the same date, the Cuban Ambassador to Canada, Josefina Vidal, clarifies that this text refers to health symptoms reported by a person more than a year ago, and on which the JAMA journal is publishing an isolated study in advance with a theory similar to others that have already been considered about a possible intoxication from exposure to pesticides.”

A response from the Cuban ambassador to Canada points out that the incident occurred a year ago, it’s an isolated case and pesticides are a known cause of Havana syndrome symptoms. That’s true … but why haven’t we heard of any more cases if these pesticides are so widely used in Cuba?

Was the Cuban government involved?

This may be a moot point considering that much travel has been canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. However, Canadian and U.S. citizens are anxious to take advantage of the relaxed travel restrictions to Cuba once the pandemic subsides. Will the Havana syndrome return and spread? Is it really caused only by pesticides? If a new administration wins in November, will it mysteriously go away?

We may be close, but no Cuban cigar … yet.

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Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.
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