Doctor Studying Havana Syndrome Gets It Himself

Investigator talks about lingering problems from mystery ailment
By Mike L. Ford,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 26, 2022 12:57 PM CDT
Investigator of Mystery Ailment Is Struck Ill Himself
Tourists ride classic convertibles near the US embassy in Havana, Cuba, on Oct. 3, 2017.   (AP Photo/Desmond Boylan, File)

Five years ago, Dr. Paul Andrews was among the first CIA investigators sent to Havana, Cuba, where personnel in the US embassy first reported symptoms of what came to be known as “Havana Syndrome,” or “anomalous health incidents” as many officials prefer to call it. CNN’s Sanjay Gupta interviewed Andrews (it's actually a pseudonym) about his experiences back in 2017. At the time, there were reports of patients returning from Havana with apparent brain injuries, but the incidents were still classified when Andrews arrived to investigate. He says he was struck by the illness on his first day in Havana, awaking at 5am with “severe pain in my right ear … a lot of nausea, and a terrible headache.” He also heard an “astounding” ringing sound in his ears, and his symptoms just got “worse and worse."

Andrews says he still suffers debilitating symptoms today, including persistent balance and vision problems. He feels nauseated whenever he tries to do social and physical activities, from hiking and jogging to reading or visiting art museums. Despite numerous exams from fellow physicians, nobody has given him a clear diagnosis other than the fact that his brain’s vestibular structures—which govern balance and orientation—are clearly damaged. Like other victims, Andrews has raised concerns about the CIA's handling of certain cases, especially early on, when some victims say their complaints weren't taken seriously by officials.

Early this year, the CIA released an interim report blaming electromagnetic waves as the “plausible cause” behind the incidents. Notably, however, the report cited no evidence of foul play by foreign adversaries. Congress got involved in June, announcing compensation for victims. According to the New York Times, nearly all 1,000 cases reported to the government could be explained by environmental or health-related factors, though a couple dozen unexplained cases are still under investigation, and victims like Andrews can only hope and wait for a fuller explanation. (More Havana syndrome stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.