What is ‘Havana syndrome’ that delayed Kamala Harris arrival in Vietnam, check details

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August 26, 2021 4:30 PM

The high powered entourage of the US Vice President Harris came to a sudden halt after reports indicated that a person had possibly been infected with 'Havana syndrome.'

Psaki also said that Harris only resumed her travel to the Vietnamese capital once a mandatory security check had been conducted.

US Vice President Kamala Harris who is on an Asian visit reached the Vietnamese capital Hanoi with a delay of about three hours caused by the fear of ‘Havana syndrome’. Harris was scheduled to travel from Singapore to neighbouring Vietnam on Tuesday but her arrival was delayed reportedly due to the fear of ‘Havana syndrome’, the Indian Express quoted AP as saying.

What is ‘Havana syndrome’?
The high powered entourage of the US Vice President Harris came to a sudden halt after reports indicated that a person had possibly been infected with ‘Havana syndrome.’ White House press secretary Jen Psaki was quoted as saying that the case had come to light of the US administration but not been confirmed. Psaki also said that Harris only resumed her travel to the Vietnamese capital once a mandatory security check had been conducted.

The first case of the so-called Havana syndrome came to light in the year 2016 when US diplomats and other officials had reportedly fallen ill in Havana, the capital of Cuba. The ‘infected’ US officials had reportedly started getting strange physical sensations and heard weird sounds. Other symptoms reported among the US officials included nausea, severe headache, hearing loss, fatigue and sleep disorders. Since 2016, the mysterious illness has been reported among dozens of US diplomats and officials in even other parts of the world and the illness has come to be called ‘Havana syndrome’. If US’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Director William Burns claims are to be believed there are more than 200 cases of the syndrome found among US officials and diplomats. Canada, which is a close ally and neighbour of the United States has also reported the presence of syndrome in some of its officials and diplomats.

While several of the infected officials have been cured of the ‘Havana syndrome’ symptoms after treatment, many continue to suffer from the weird symptoms. The personal as well as professional lives of such officials has also been badly impacted due to the manifestation of strange sounds, fatigue, dizziness and hearing problems.

How have Cuba and the US responded to ‘Havana syndrome’?
Cuba and the US have a decades old ideological rivalry as the former espouses communism whereas the US is the undisputed leader of the predominantly capitalist world. The ideological rivalry has on a number of occasions also expanded to the realm of geopolitics with Cuba accusing the US of meddling in its internal affairs. Quite understandably Cuba on its part has not spoken much about the so-called Havana syndrome and has maintained that it has no knowledge about the illness.

While the US investigative agencies have for years indicated that the Havana syndrome has been intentionally directed against the US officials and diplomats, the agencies are yet to come out with any conclusive evidence on the same. As recently as December 2020, the US National Academies of Sciences (NAS) said that the syndrome may have been directed by energy beams. The NAS which studied the symptoms in over 40 such US officials concluded that directed pulsed radio frequency (RF) energy was behind the Havana syndrome.

The NAS had also recommended to the US administration that a prompt response action must be formulated for similar incidents in future for the safety of the US diplomats serving in different countries around the world.

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