US establishes task force to address mysterious diplomatic health incidents

US establishes task force to address mysterious diplomatic health incidents
© Getty Images

The U.S. has established a task force to address a series of mysterious health incidents that has affected U.S. government employees working abroad in recent years.

Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoAfghan president vows to take revenge after Islamic State attack on wedding The Hill's Morning Report - Trump on defense over economic jitters Latest pro-democracy rally draws tens of thousands in Hong Kong MORE said Tuesday that the task force, which was set up late last month by Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan, includes officials from multiple agencies including the Justice Department and Defense Department.

The so-called Health Incidents Response Task Force will oversee the "identification and treatment of affected personnel and family members, investigation and risk mitigation, messaging, and diplomatic outreach," Pompeo said.

ADVERTISEMENT

The creation of the task force marks a renewed effort by U.S. officials to address lingering concerns about mysterious symptoms experienced by at least 25 U.S. personnel assigned to posts abroad.

Twenty-four American diplomats fell ill in Cuba beginning in the fall of 2016, reporting symptoms ranging from severe headaches to hearing loss. The exact cause of those symptoms remains unclear.

While it's been months since the last incident was reported from Cuba, the State Department issued a travel warning last month after a U.S. employee in China "reported subtle and vague, but abnormal, sensations of sound and pressure" consistent with symptoms experienced by some personnel in Havana. 

Pompeo said Tuesday that the cause of those symptoms has not yet been determined, and it's unclear if that incident was linked to others in Cuba. 

"The precise nature of the injuries suffered by the affected personnel, and whether a common cause exists for all cases, has not yet been established," he said.