In 2016, U.S. diplomats stationed in Havana, Cuba, began reporting strange symptoms. These included headaches, dizziness, and memory loss. Initially thought to be the result of a targeted attack using a microwave weapon, the condition has since been named “Havana Syndrome.” However, despite years of investigation, little is known about the illness.
According to a CIA report released in March, the symptoms are likely to be caused by environmental factors, preexisting medical conditions, or stress. But many of those affected have shown signs of brain damage, which complicates the issue.
A panel of experts convened by the government in 2020 initially suggested that a microwave weapon was responsible for the symptoms. But this theory has since come under fire, and there is little evidence to support the idea of a physical phenomenon or weapon.
As a result, some scientists are now exploring the possibility that Havana Syndrome is a psychogenic illness. This would mean that the symptoms are caused by psychological factors, such as stress or anxiety, rather than a physical cause.
While it is clear that Havana Syndrome is a real illness with real symptoms, the power of suggestion could be playing a role in making people ill. By counseling future embassy staff about the perceived threat, an expectation of illness was created, which could have led to the outbreak of mass psychogenic illness.
The investigation into Havana Syndrome has been criticized for its lack of transparency and failure to consider all possible explanations. However, the Biden administration has allocated $36 million to the Pentagon’s budget to continue studying the illness.
Regardless of the cause, those affected by Havana Syndrome deserve compensation for their injuries. The Helping American Victims Afflicted by Neurological Attacks Act was passed in 2021, providing $30 million to victims. The government should continue to support those affected, regardless of the ultimate cause of the illness.