Health, Local

CDC Working With State Department To Solve Mysterious Diplomat Attacks

The CDC has joined the State Department in helping solve a series of mysterious deaths of department officials abroad.
Credit James Gathany / CDC via Wikimedia Commons
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Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is helping the government solve a series of mysterious attacks on State Department officials abroad.

Since early 2016, nearly 30 State Department employees and their family members in Cuba and China have been diagnosed with mysterious symptoms similar to those of brain damage and concussions. Twenty-six of those were in Cuba, which prompted the department to evacuate about 60 percent of its Cuban mission. Reports of attacks on officials in China became public early last month.

But, years later, the government still doesn’t know who or what has caused these attacks.

In December, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Ed Royce and ranking member Eliot Engel wrote to the CDC and NIH asking that they take a lead in the effort to solve the problem.

In a hearing for that committee on Wednesday, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Kenneth Merten confirmed that the CDC has joined the investigation, which also includes the FBI.

Engel asked why the CDC itself hasn’t been deployed to Cuba in the investigation. Merten declined to comment on that specifically.

The CDC referred questions to the State Department, which did not respond to questions by deadline.

Merten called the situation “worrisome.” He said the government task force on the topic, which includes the CDC and is chaired by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, meets weekly.