Unexplained ailments experienced by a number of U.S. diplomats in Cuba over the last year could be attributed to “mass hysteria”, not sonic “attacks”, as the United States has labelled them.
“From an objective point of view it’s more like mass hysteria than anything else,” Mark Hallett the head of the human motor control section of the U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke told The Guardian.
The neurologist explained that “mass hysteria” is the term used for outbreaks among groups of people that are either wholly or partly psychosomatic.
“There has been an exploration of possible causes for this and nothing has been found and the notion of some sonic beam is relatively nonsensical,” he told the outlet.
“If it is mass hysteria that would clarify all the mystery – and presumably normalize U.S.-Cuban relations again,” Hallett added.
But the neurologists cautioned that no proper diagnosis is possible without more information and access to the victims, who have suffered a range of symptoms including hearing loss, tinnitus, headaches and dizziness.
The incidents have prompted the United States to withdraw its staff from Havana, and expel the majority of Cuban diplomats from Washington.
While the Trump administration confirmed they don’t believe the Cuban government is responsible for the “attacks,” other anonymous officials have claimed the injuries are due to a “sonic device,” potentially planted by Havana or Russia.
Despite this, the U.S. President Donald Trump’s chief of staff John Kelly said Washington believes Havana could put a halt to the incidents.
Cuba has responded by saying that they have “never perpetrated nor will (they) ever perpetrate attacks of any kind against diplomats.”
“The Cuban government has never permitted nor will it ever permit the use of its territory by third parties for this purpose,” the statement added.
Cuba has even allowed the FBI unprecedented access in the country to carry out its investigations.
Havana has also called the U.S. decision to pull out over half of its diplomats from the island as “hasty.”
The U.S. State Department has said there are 21 medically confirmed cases. The “incidents” are reported to have begun in late 2016.
On Thursday, the Associated Press obtained what it said was an audio recording of the sound that the diplomats heard in Cuba, of a high-pitched, electronic squeaking noise.
The Cuban journalist Rosa Miriam Elizalde, however, dismissed it, saying, “I found a rather harmless cricket recital”, adding that it appears that someone had “amplified the volume and decreased the background pollution” of the recording.