A mysterious illness has been striking people associated with the US Embassy in Cuba — and a secret sonic weapon is rumored to be the source. Over the past year, diplomats in Cuba have experienced an unusual collection of symptoms that range from hearing loss, vertigo, and nausea to concussions, CBS News reported.
Yesterday, the mystery grew even more complex when the Associated Press reported that the number of US victims has climbed to 21 people. Canadian diplomatic households were affected as well, the AP says. The Cuban government has denied involvement, and no “piece of equipment” that might be causing the symptoms has been discovered yet, State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert told reporters.
That could be because a weapon that covertly uses sound energy to injure people doesn’t actually exist, experts say. “It sounds very appealing and interesting, but I find it hard to believe that there actually is such a device,” says hearing expert John Oghalai, the chair of head and neck surgery at the University of Southern California.
The weapons known to use sound — like Flash Bang grenades or the sound cannons used against protesters, for example — are loud, obvious, and have immediate effects. No one could describe these noisy devices as covert. “Obviously, we don’t know what any of the investigators have in terms of narrowing it down to say that it’s an acoustic weapon,” says James Jauchem, a retired scientist who previously investigated the biological effects of acoustic energy for the Air Force Research Laboratory. “I’d be highly skeptical of the reports.”