Sonic attack? Crickets? Insecticide? Update on the Havana mystery

There is a new twist to the long-running saga about the mysterious ailment that struck personnel working at the American and Canadian embassies in Havana, Cuba. Initially the US accused Cuba of using some kind of sonic weapon to attack their diplomats. But this seemed highly implausible, not least because there did not seem to be any evidence that such a weapon existed and it was not clear why the Cuban government, even if it had such a weapon, would do such a thing at a time when they were trying to improve relations with the US.

Speculations ran rampant with the New York Times even suggesting based on CIA sources (naturally) that this was part of a conspiracy by Cuba, Russia, and China. As time went by, other more benign explanations were suggested, such as crickets chirping

The latest twist is that Canadian researchers say the cause may have been due to the spraying of gases to kill mosquitoes.

Canadian researchers say they may have identified the cause of a mystery illness which plagued diplomatic staff in Cuba in 2016.

Some reports in the US suggested an “acoustic attack” caused US staff similar symptoms, sparking speculation about a secret sonic weapon.

But the Canadian team suggests that neurotoxins from mosquito fumigation are the more likely cause.

The Zika virus, carried by mosquitoes, was a major health concern at the time.

So-called “Havana syndrome” caused symptoms including headaches, blurred vision, dizziness and tinnitus.

The study notes that tests carried out on 28 participants – seven of whom were tested both before and after being posted to Havana – support a diagnosis of brain injury acquired by diplomats and their families while in Cuba.

The patterns of brain injury “all raise the hypothesis of recurrent, low-dose exposure to neurotoxins”, the report said.

But the low, consistent doses the researchers believe were delivered are consistent with exposure to commercial pesticides, the study’s authors said.

And fumigation in Cuba increased after the country “declared war” on the Zika virus in 2016, spraying gas around or even inside diplomats’ homes.

Embassy records showed a significant increase in fumigation with weekly exposure to high doses of pesticides, the study said.

This will likely not be the end of the story.


  1. Jean says

    That sounds like a most logical explanation and something that should have been one of the first things to check. And the fact that the US and Canada were the ones affected is also logical in that is how the US would react to a potential natural crisis: make a worse man-made one. And Canada just follows blindly.

    And I would not be surprised if someone made a lot of money out of the whole thing.

  2. says

    Yeah, if the American embassy used a specific insecticide to fight mosquitoes it wouldn’t be surprising if the Canadian embassy used the same product.

  3. Ridana says

    @2 It was the Cuban government doing the spraying.

    “And fumigation in Cuba increased after the country ‘declared war’ on the Zika virus in 2016, spraying gas around or even inside diplomats’ homes.”

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