Nuclear Diplomacy and Disarmament

What is Havana Syndrome?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Havana syndrome

Mains level : Threats of microwave warfare

Nearly four years after a mysterious neurological illness started to affect American diplomats in Cuba, China, and other countries, a report has found “directed” microwave radiation to be its “plausible” cause.

Q.Microwave warfare is the new nuke. Discuss.

The ‘Havana syndrome’

  • In late 2016, US diplomats in Havana reported feeling ill after hearing strange sounds and experiencing odd physical sensations in their hotel rooms or homes.
  • The symptoms included nausea, severe headaches, fatigue, dizziness, sleep problems, and hearing loss, which have since come to be known as “Havana Syndrome”.
  • Cuba had denied any knowledge of the illnesses even though the US had accused it of carrying out “sonic attacks”, leading to an increase in tensions.

Possible factor: Microwave Weapons

  • “Microwave weapons” are supposed to be a type of direct energy weapons, which aim highly focused energy in the form of sonic, laser, or microwaves, at a target.
  • People exposed to high-intensity microwave pulses have reported a clicking or buzzing sound as if seeming to be coming from within your head.
  • It can have both acute and long-term effects — without leaving signs of physical damage.
  • These weapons are considered to be the cause of the “syndrome” whose symptoms include nausea, dizziness, fatigue, and cognitive difficulties.

How did researchers deduce that?

  • The researchers have examined four possibilities to explain the symptoms — infection, chemicals, psychological factors and microwave energy.
  • The experts examined the symptoms of about 40 government employees.
  • The report concluded that directed pulsed RF (radio frequency) energy appears to be the most plausible mechanism in explaining these cases among those that the committee considered.
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