Canada Pulls Diplomats From Cuba Over Mysterious Illness

Elias Hubbard
April 17, 2018

"In some cases the symptoms have appeared to lessen in intensity, before reasserting themselves", the government said. Spouses, children or even parents of diplomats already with them in Havana will begin leaving immediately.

Questions emerged "more recently" with information from Canadian medical specialists involved in the evaluation of affected diplomats and dependents as well as from US specialists that "raised concerns for a new type of a possible acquired brain injury", the ministry said.

The Canadian government said results of an environmental assessment of diplomatic staff quarters in Havana, including tests of air and water quality, did not indicate anything that could point to a cause.

Cuba is a favourite tourist destination for Canadians, with more than one million visiting the Caribbean island annually, but Global Affairs Canada says there is no evidence of any related ailments among Canadian travellers.

A team of specialists from the University of Pennsylvania evaluated 21 U.S. Cuba-based diplomats who suffered similar problems and detailed their preliminary findings in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The move comes after 10 Canadians continue to show unexplained brain symptoms and after "medical information raised concerns for a new type of a possible acquired brain injury".

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 USA officials failed to reveal a cause.

There are now 15 staff in Havana, and Canada will review whether all the positions are needed, the official said.

"The cause (of their symptoms) remains unknown but could be human-made", the government concluded.

An official told reporters that the Canadians affected have suffered concussion-like symptoms that include dizziness, nausea, headaches and trouble concentrating.

The symptoms appear to have affected only Canadian and American personnel, and there have been no signs travelers could be at risk, the official said.

Numerous embassy staff were due to rotate out and be replaced this coming August, but now all those involved will be given time to re-evaluate their next moves, officials said.

The Cuban capital will now be an "unaccompanied post", joining others locales such as Kabul, which are deemed too risky to have family members accompany embassy staff during their postings.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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