Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday issued a memo to DoD employees to report any symptoms of the so-called Havana Syndrome in an effort to get to the bottom of the mysterious illness
The Department of Defense is asking all 2.9million of its employees, including civilians and contractors, to report symptoms of Havana Syndrome.
Their request, signed by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin Wednesday, is part of a wider government effort to gather more information about the mysterious illness that has so far affected more than 200 Americans across the globe.
Identifying them as 'Anomalous Health Incidents,' or AHIs, Austin described symptoms of headaches, pain, nausea or vertigo brought on by sounds, pressure or heat as the telltale signs of the yet unexplained illness, colloquially named for its first reported case in 2016 at the US Embassy in Havana, Cuba.
Austin advised personnel who believe they have come down with Havana Syndrome to, 'Immediately remove yourself, coworkers, and/or family member from the area, and report the incident,' according to the memo, first reported on by the New York Times.
The request came amid a stepped-up investigation by the US government into the causes of the illness, and to discover who or what might be responsible.
The memo was issued to all 2.9million DoD employees, including service members, civilians and contractors
'There’s a classic intelligence problem, and we are approaching it with the same techniques,' David S. Cohen, deputy CIA director said at the annual Intelligence and National Security Summit this week, the Times reported.
'This is a serious issue. It’s real, it’s affecting our officers, it’s affecting others around their community and in government.'
Austin's request came as Deputy CIA Director David S. Cohen said the agency was taking the illness seriously
As of August, the illness had reportedly affected American personnel stationed on every continent excluding Antarctica, including a baby in one case.
Most recently, an episode in Vietnam among staff at the US Embassy in Hanoi delayed a visit to the country by Vice President Kamala Harris late last month.
Two staffers there had come down with the symptoms while at their homes in the city.
'We, of course, take any reported incidents of Havana syndrome seriously,' White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters after the incident. 'There was an assessment of the vice president and made that she could continue traveling.'
Scientists and government officials are not yet certain about who might have been behind any attacks, if the symptoms could have been caused inadvertently by surveillance equipment, or if the incidents were caused by a mysterious sonic weapon.
On July 22, CIA Director William Burns assigned an intelligence officer involved in the hunt for Osama bin Laden to lead an investigation into Havana Syndrome.
Although referred to as Anomalous Health Incidents by US government officials, the Havana Syndrome earned its colloquial name from the first reported instance of the illness in 2016 at the US embassy in Havana, Cuba (pictured)
The causes of illness are still unexplained, with one theory that it could be a microwave device of Russian origin such as the one pictured built in the 1980s and operating at a lab at the University of New Mexico
The unnamed officer, a veteran of the Counterterrorism Center, is heading a task force made up of experts from the CIA who specialize in human intelligence, human resources and information-gathering.
He took over after the retirement of Cynthia Rapp, less than a year after taking the role.
Rapp was appointed by Trump CIA chief Gina Haspel.
A day later, the agency reportedly launched a review of how Havana Syndrome cases are handled, and how officers are treated for the illness CNN reported.
Among the over 200 cases reported so far, roughly half involved CIA officers or their relatives, roughly 60 have been linked to Department of Defense workers or relatives, and about 50 involved State Department personnel the outlet reported.