Canada announced Monday it was sending home the families of its diplomats in Cuba, after a year-long investigation into a mysterious illness afflicting Canadian and U.S. officials failed to reveal a cause.
The number of Canadian envoys and family members with symptoms, meanwhile, has risen from eight to 10, a senior official told a media briefing. Twenty-seven had been tested.
“The cause (of their symptoms) remains unknown but could be human-made,” the government concluded.
In a statement, the government said: “Arrangements will be made to support our diplomatic staff and their families returning to Canada in the coming weeks, as well as for those families who had expected to be posted to Cuba this summer.” Otherwise, “regular embassy operations will continue,” it said.
Statement by Global Affairs Canada on ongoing health and security situation of Canadian diplomatic staff and dependants in Havana, Cuba https://t.co/Mb4Zdvj4UH
— GC Newsroom (@NewsroomGC) April 16, 2018
Canadian and U.S. authorities had initially suspected a “sonic attack” or a “mass psychosomatic incident,” which led to heightened diplomatic tensions between Washington and the Caribbean island nation, but those are “now considered unlikely,” the senior official said.
American doctors and officials have pointed to “a new type of a possible acquired brain injury” outlined in a February Journal of the American Medical Association article by health experts at the University of Pennsylvania, who treated the U.S. diplomats. Canada has accepted that theory.
The symptoms included dizziness, headaches and a lack of ability to concentrate. “In some cases the symptoms have appeared to lessen in intensity, before reasserting themselves,” the government said.
Those who were afflicted included global affairs, immigration and national defense staff at the embassy as well as their spouses and children.
An environmental assessment in March of diplomatic staff quarters where the illness appeared to have been centered, including air and water tests, “did not indicate anything that could point to a cause.”