Havana Syndrome

Havana Syndrome

By The Center for Investigative Reporting and PRX

A sharp sound. Followed by body numbness. Difficulty speaking. Extreme head pain. Since 2016, U.S. officials across the world – in Cuba, China and Russia – have reported experiencing the sudden onset of an array of eerie symptoms. Reporters Adam Entous and Jon Lee Anderson try to make sense of this confusing illness that has come to be called Havana syndrome. This episode is built from reporting for an eight-part VICE World News podcast series by the same name.  

The reporters begin by tracking down one of the first people to report Havana syndrome symptoms, a CIA officer working in Cuba. This “patient zero” explains the ways Cuban intelligence surveil and harass American spies working on the island and his own experience of suddenly being struck with a mysterious, painful condition. When he reports the illness to his bosses at the CIA, he learns that other U.S. officials on the island are experiencing the same thing.  

A CIA doctor sees reports from the field about this strange condition happening in Cuba. He’s sent to Havana to investigate the cause of the symptoms and whether they may stem from a mysterious sound recorded by patient zero. But during his first night on the island, the CIA doctor falls ill with the same syndrome he is there to investigate.

In the third segment, the reporters head to Havana to visit the sites where people reported the onset of their symptoms, looking for answers. The team shares reporting-informed theories about who and what could be causing Havana syndrome. 

This is an update of an episode that originally aired in April 2023.

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