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US expands health alert to cover China after mystery illness

10 June 2018

A medical team was screening more Americans who work at the USA consulate in southern China on Thursday as the State Department confirmed it had evacuated a number of government employees who experienced unexplained health issues like those that had beset U.S. personnel in Cuba and once before in China.

The message urges staff and family members to contact their health care provider if they experience "any unusual, unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena, or other health concerns".

A health alert was first issued for Guangzhou on May 23 after a United States employee stationed in the southern Chinese city was diagnosed with a mild brain injury after complaining of unexplained sonic phenomena.

The tests were prompted after a previous case in the Guangzhou consulate was disclosed last month.

The State Department previously issued a travel alert for Americans in China, prompting Foreign Minister Wang Yi to warn Washington not to "politicize" the incidents.

The State Department has previously said brain injuries suffered by 24 U.S. officials and family members posted in Havana could have been the result of a "health attack", perhaps from an unidentified secret weapon.

The most recent evacuations followed medical testing that revealed they might have been affected. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said "a number of individuals" had been brought to the US but didn't say how many were affected or evacuated. The symptoms included dizziness, nausea, headaches, hearing loss, and inability to concentrate. Instead, it said, they should move to a different location. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Thursday that as far as she was aware the Chinese government had not had any formal communication with US officials on any new cases.

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"After almost a year of investigation that has drawn on intelligence, defense and technology expertise from across the USA government, the FBI has been unable to determine who might have attacked the diplomats or how".

"The embassy will continue to operate with the minimum personnel necessary to perform core diplomatic and consular functions, similar to the level of emergency staffing maintained during ordered departure", the State Department said in a statement.

"If there is really some problem, United States can directly connect and communicate with China and China will adopt a responsible attitude to investigate this", she said.

The Chinese foreign ministry said Thursday that its investigation into the first case has not yielded any clues as to the cause of the incident.

A USA official, who wasn't licensed to debate the state of affairs publicly and requested anonymity, mentioned the evacuated American authorities employees had been being introduced from China for testing to the College of Pennsylvania.

The nationwide alert advises USA personnel to contact a doctor if they experience unusual or unexplained physical symptoms.

The alert urges USA citizens across China to seek medical help if they experience any "unusual, unexplained physical symptoms or events, auditory or sensory phenomena, or other health concerns".

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On Tuesday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo set up a medical task force to seek answers to the mysterious ailments.

As part of its response, the United States also expelled 17 Cuban diplomats from Washington, and issued a travel alert for USA visitors to the island.

Wednesday, the department began evacuating staffers from the Guangzhou consulate.

It serves four southern provinces with a combined population of more than 204 million and processes more than one million visa applications of all types annually. It's also the one US diplomatic set up in China licensed to course of immigrant visas and deal with adoptions.

People working in The Canton Place complex, a few kilometres from the consulate, said they were just hearing about the incidents, reflecting a lack of coverage in China's state-controlled media.

"Hard to get my head around how it works", he said.

Linda Chen, who runs a espresso store within the space, mentioned she was mystified as to why exclusively sure individuals appeared to have been affected in an space recognized for its consolation and security. "However I do not really feel that there is one thing to be very afraid of as a result of it is most likely a really particular case", Chen mentioned.

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US expands health alert to cover China after mystery illness