Daily Current Affairs for UPSC

Havana Syndrome

Syllabus- Science and Technology [GS Paper-3]


As per a joint media investigation, Havana Syndrome is linked to a Russian intelligence unit.


  • Havana syndrome refers to a hard and fast set of mental health symptoms which can be stated to be experienced by United States intelligence and embassy officials in various countries.
  • Generally, the phrase ‘syndrome’ simply means a fixed set of signs. 

Origin and Symptoms

  • It was first witnessed in 2016 when U.S. Diplomats in Cuba’s capital (Havana) suggested falling ill and hearing piercing sounds at night, sparking speculation of an assault by a foreign entity using an unspecified sonar weapon.
  • Other symptoms along with bloody noses, headaches and vision issues had been later mentioned by the embassy body of workers in China and Europe.
  • However, the joint investigation suggests the primary instances of Havana Syndrome may additionally have taken place in Germany two years in advance than the instances pronounced in Havana.


  • After the Havana incident, there was a suspicion that the syndrome was a “sonic attack”, which was accomplished by Cuba — a country that has been adverse to the USA for over five decades.
  • However, in addition have a look at by scientists in the US and medical tests of the victims commenced to suggest that they had been subjected to high-powered microwaves that either broke or interfered with the frightened machine.
  • The use of microwaves as a counter-intelligence tactic has been experimented with since the Cold War and both Russia and the United States have made attempts to weaponize it. 

Affected Areas 

  • According to US media reports, in the past few years, its officers have pronounced greater than 130 such reviews the world over along with Moscow in Russia, Poland, Georgia, Taiwan, Colombia, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Austria, amongst others.
  • In early 2018, similar accusations began to be made by US diplomats in China. 

Status in India

  • The first such case was reported in the year 2021, when a US intelligence officer visiting New Delhi with CIA director William Burns reported signs of Havana Syndrome.

Findings of the latest research 

  • The year long research “uncovered proof suggesting that unexplained anomalous health incidents, also referred to as Havana Syndrome, may have their beginning in the use of directed power guns wielded by members of (the Russian GRU) Unit 29155.
  • Russia’s 29155 unit is chargeable for overseas operations and has been blamed for numerous global incidents, which includes the attempted poisoning of defector Sergei Skripal in Britain in 2018.

Response of Russia

  • Moscow dismissed the allegations as “groundless” and nobody has ever published any convincing proof, so all that is not anything more than a groundless and unfounded accusation.

Source: The Indian Express

UPSC Mains Practice Question

Q.What is Havana syndrome? Discuss the impact of Havana syndrome on the global healthcare system.

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