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US investigating reported cases of 'Havana syndrome' in Colombia ahead of Blinken visit

Oleksii Liskonih/iStock

(BOGOTA, Colombia) -- A "few" U.S. personnel at the embassy in Bogotá, Colombia, have reported symptoms consistent with "Havana syndrome," a source familiar with the cases confirmed to ABC News.

Colombia is now the latest country where American officials have reported incidents of the mysterious neurological affliction that has confounded the U.S. government for years now, but the reports are particularly notable because Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Bogotá this month, the Colombian Foreign Ministry announced last week.

In a similar episode in August, Vice President Kamala Harris's trip to Vietnam was delayed for a few hours after an unconfirmed case of "Havana syndrome" was reported by a staffer at the U.S. mission there.

American diplomats, spies and other officials have reported strange experiences and debilitating symptoms in several countries now, starting with Cuba in late 2016 and expanding to China, Russia, Uzbekistan, Germany, Austria and elsewhere.

Symptoms include headaches, dizziness, cognitive difficulties, tinnitus, vertigo and trouble with seeing, hearing or balancing. Many officials have suffered symptoms years after reporting an incident, while some have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.

It's unclear how many U.S. officials have confirmed medical symptoms.

Leadership at the U.S. embassy in Bogotá informed staff of the reported incidents, saying they are investigating the cases and addressing them "seriously, with objectivity and with sensitivity," according to an email from Ambassador Philip Goldberg obtained by the Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news. The source confirmed to ABC News that Goldberg has been in communication with staff, but declined to share the emails.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price declined to comment on the report Tuesday during a department briefing, saying instead the agency is working to ensure all affected personnel get "the prompt care they need in whatever form that takes" and to protect its work force around the world.

Pressed on why the administration wasn't being more forthcoming, Price said officials had to respect personnel privacy, adding, "It's certainly not the case that we are ignoring this. We are just not speaking to the press -- we're speaking to our workforce."

Price also declined to confirm that Blinken is traveling to Colombia. Colombia's Foreign Ministry announced he would visit for a high-level dialogue on Oct. 20 with Foreign Minister and First Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez after the two met last week in Paris on the sidelines of the summit of Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries.

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