FILE - Paramilitary police officer guards the entrance to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, China, April 5, 2018.
FILE - Paramilitary police officer guards the entrance to the U.S. embassy in Beijing, China, April 5, 2018.

The U.S. State Department issued a health alert Wednesday for its citizens in China in response to what it said was a recent report of a U.S. government employee in Guangzhou experiencing “subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure.”

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing said the employee was sent back to the United States for evaluation and diagnosed with a mild traumatic brain injury.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described it as a “serious medical incident.” 

Cause is unknown

Wednesday’s alert said the U.S. government does not know the cause of the reported symptoms and has not received similar reports in other parts of China, but that it is taking the report seriously.

It advised anyone who experiences “unusual acute auditory or sensory phenomena accompanied by unusual sounds or piercing noises” to not seek out the source, but instead to move to a location where they are not present.

The State Department “is working to determine the cause and impact of the incident,” spokesperson Heather Nauert said.  “The State Department will be sending a medical team to Guangzhou early next week to conduct baseline medical evaluations of all Consulate Guangzhou employees who request it.”

China to stay in touch with US

The Chinese foreign minister, who was in Washington Wednesday for a meeting with Pompeo, said China had been investigating and hasn’t found any organization or individual responsible.

“We will stay in communication with the U.S. through diplomatic channels and we would suggest the U.S. side also carry out some internal investigations. We don’t want to see this individual case be magnified, complicated or even politicized,” Wang said at a joint news conference with Pompeo.

Last year in Cuba, the United States reported that some of its personnel and family members experience a range of symptoms, often after hearing an unusual sound, but the cause is still unknown.

“We are working to figure out what took place, both in Havana, now in China as well.  We’ve asked the Chinese for their assistance in doing that, and they have committed to honoring their commitments under the Vienna convention to keep American Foreign Service officers safe,”  Pompeo said in remarks to the House Foreign Affairs Committee Wednesday.