Brain Damage to US Government Worker in China Triggers Official Alert

By Matthew Bossons, May 24, 2018

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Yesterday, May 23, the US Consulate General in Guangzhou released a health alert to American citizens in China stating that a US government employee in Guangzhou had recently experienced abnormal "sound and pressure perception." The individual was later diagnosed with a "mild traumatic brain injury," according to Global Times

Mild traumatic brain injury can manifest itself in a number of ways, according to the US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health, including "headaches, sleep disruptions, dizziness, nausea, visual disturbances, photophobia, and phonophobia."

Here is the full text of the alert, as shared to Americans enrolled in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) in Guangzhou: 


Location: Guangzhou

Event: A U.S. government employee in China recently reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.  The U.S. government is taking these reports seriously and has informed its official staff in China of this event.  We do not currently know what caused the reported symptoms and we are not aware of any similar situations in China, either inside or outside of the diplomatic community.

Action to Take:

If you have concerns about any symptoms or medical problems that developed during or after a stay in China, consult a medical professional.

While in China, if you experience any unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises, do not attempt to locate their source.  Instead, move to a location where the sounds are not present.


U.S. Consulate Guangzhou

Tel: 020-3814 5775 or 011-86-20-3814 5775 if you are calling from the U.S.


State Department- Consular Affairs

888-407-4747 or 202-201-4444

Enroll in Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP) to receive security updates.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has drawn comparisons between the unfolding situation in Guangzhou and the alleged ‘sonic attacks’ that occurred in Cuba last year. "The medical indications are very similar and entirely consistent with the medical indications that have taken place to Americans working in Cuba," said Pompeo, according to the New York Times.

Beginning in late 2016 and carrying on in 2017, diplomats in Havana began reporting physical discomfort, with symptoms including deafness, dizziness and headaches, among others. The US has claimed the affected individuals were targets of a 'sonic attack,' according to Global Times, while the Cuban government has denied any involvement and dubbed the matter 'science fiction.'

[Cover image via WKDx417/Wikimedia

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