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The mystery around the brain injury suffered by US Embassy employees in Cuba and China continues to deepen. A new piece of research confirms victims suffered physical injury, not a crowd-sourced hysteria.

Injury in the workplace is not new—but these on-the-job injuries have personal and political implications.  At present, it is largely considered that embassy employees suffered targeted attacks in their living quarters and hotel rooms in Cuba and possibly in China. The trouble began in 2016 when embassy workers in Cuba began complaining of hearing odd sounds, feeling what they described as pressurized sensations, and then suffering symptoms.

Newly Published Research Paper from Florida Physicians

In December, 2018, physicians in Florida who had the opportunity to thoroughly examine the affected workers from the Havana embassy published a research paper on their findings.  The researchers examined 25 employees who complained of physical symptoms after hearing some kind of noise accompanied by pressure.

The investigation of the physical complaints and their cause has become a divisive diplomatic situation.  This study definitively lays aside a suggestion of mass hysteria, finding that “100 percent of individuals had an otolithic abnormality and evidence of cognitive dysfunction.” The otolithic membrane is located within the inner ear and is essential for helping the brain understand the tilt or position of the body and head.

Lead study author, Dr. Michael E. Hoffer notes, “These people were injured. We’re not sure how. The injury resulted in ear damage and some trouble thinking.”

The injury has been career-ending for at least one diplomat, while an employee in the US embassy in China has remained on leave.  Some victims continue to experience nausea and dizziness, sometimes while using a computer.  Others continue to experience insomnia.

Earlier Results showed mTBI

An earlier study of the victims found some had suffered a mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) without the presence of concussion.

In an odd twist, other researchers recently identified the source of a sound recording made by US employees of the Havana embassy in Cuba. Scientists from the University of California and University of Lincoln in England published a paper that many researchers find credible.  The paper identifies the acoustic sound to be that of an insect, the Indies short-tailed cricket.  The research finds that the pulse structure of the sound recording is “virtually indistinguishable” from the identified cricket call.

How does the cricket research square with strong evidence of neurological damage?  Physicians who examined the employees note some of the injured heard different types of noises, or none at all.  Both sets of researchers suggest an as-yet-unidentified injury mechanism, other than sound, could be the root cause of the physical injury.

The incident is an unfortunate mystery and a compelling case for the occurrence of TBI without overt trauma.  We’ll keep you informed of future findings.

Experienced Medical Malpractice Law Firm serving Washington, DC and Maryland

From offices in Baltimore and Washington, DC, the knowledgeable legal team at Schochor, Staton, Goldberg, and Cardea, P.A. delivers committed legal representation and advice to clients  that may have suffered a traumatic brain injury in Maryland or if they were injured through medical mistake and negligence. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case today.