(Trends Wide) — More than a dozen US officials working at the US Embassy in Colombia and their families have reported symptoms consistent with “Havana syndrome” in recent weeks, according to a US official and a source familiar with the situation.
Some officials who reported symptoms in Colombia had to be evacuated from the country, including a family with a minor, sources said. Some of those affected have previously reported incidents of the mysterious disease when they were based in other countries, a source said.
The incidents, now among the hundreds the United States is investigating, come as Secretary of State Tony Blinken plans to visit Bogotá next week. State Department spokesman Ned Price declined to comment on the reported incidents in Colombia or on Blinken’s upcoming trip during the department’s briefing on Tuesday.
Price said that any US official affected by the mysterious disease “will receive the immediate care they need.”
The Wall Street Journal newspaper was the first to report on the incidents in Colombia.
The international travel of senior officials in the Biden administration has been affected by reported incidents of the Havana syndrome twice in recent months.
The State Department is now alerting US officials to reported cases when they occur in the missions where they are serving. But the department is not publicly releasing basic information such as the number of people affected and the location of incidents, data that the State Department used to publicly release at press conferences about the incidents in Cuba and China.
Researchers in the US have struggled to determine what or who is causing the symptoms and how exactly they are doing it. Incidents of the Havana syndrome began in late 2016 in Cuba and cases have since been reported in Russia, China, Austria and other countries around the world. The Biden administration continues to investigate the matter.
Last week, President Joe Biden enacted long-delayed legislation to provide support to victims of the strange confluence of symptoms that have sickened diplomats, spies and service members around the world.
“I was pleased to enact the HAVANA Act to ensure that we are doing everything possible to care for US government personnel who have experienced abnormal health incidents,” Biden said in a statement that notably referred to the episodes. as “incidents” rather than “attacks,” as top lawmakers on the Senate Intelligence Committee have done.
“Addressing these incidents has been one of my Administration’s top priorities,” he said after the closed-door signing on Friday.