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HomeUS Refines Tool to Evaluate 'Havana Syndrome' Cases

US Refines Tool to Evaluate ‘Havana Syndrome’ Cases

Marc Polymeropoulos, a retired C.I.A. officer who started experiencing symptoms of Havana syndrome in Moscow in 2017, said that the government agencies that screen people with symptoms — including the Defense Department, the State Department and the C.I.A. — needed a consistent method of doing so. The tool, he said, could also help focus investigative efforts on the cases that are most likely related to Havana syndrome.

“You need to move from a piecemeal to a whole-of-government approach,” he said. “They needed to consolidate all the reporting mechanisms of the different agencies.”

Early last year, the Biden administration and the C.I.A. began an intense hunt for what could be causing the injuries. So far, that effort has not turned up any evidence pointing to a source. But some administration officials insist that the injuries are real, and that they will continue to look for a cause.

The Biden administration has until April to draft rules for awarding compensation; the State Department and the C.I.A. are working on separate sets of rules. Once they are finished, the law requires the administration to brief Congress. A State Department official said the screening tool was central to evaluating people with symptoms but was not a diagnostic tool. As a result, the official said, it cannot be used for determining compensation.

While the law is intended to compensate patients for injuries related to Havana syndrome, it also provides assistance for a variety of government service-related injuries. Under the legislation, a C.I.A. officer who incurred a brain injury while serving in Iraq or Afghanistan could qualify for additional compensation.

Intelligence agencies have not used the screening tool to categorize incident reports. Still, government officials and medical providers said the tool was helping them learn more about the symptoms associated with Havana syndrome and the injuries people were experiencing. It has helped people get care, the officials said, even if they have not met the criteria for a Havana syndrome case.

Dr. Pablo A. Celnik, the director of the department of physical medicine and rehabilitation at Johns Hopkins Medicine, said the program he oversees has treated a few dozen patients who were referred to the hospital after being screened by the triage tool. So far, he said, only a few ended up having diagnosable illnesses.

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