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03.15.2019

ON “60 MINUTES”: AMERICAN OFFICIAL WHO SERVED IN CHINA DESCRIBES FOR THE FIRST TIME SYMPTOMS OF THE BRAIN ATTACK SHE SAYS SHE SUFFERED THERE

Catherine Werner Is One of the Americans Working in China Whose Symptoms Are Similar to Those Suffered by Americans Serving in Cuba

Watch the Excerpt

An American official serving in China who was rushed back to the U.S. for medical reasons describes the symptoms she says she suffered from a mysterious attack that injured her brain. Catherine Werner tells her story for the first time to Scott Pelley for a report to be broadcast on 60 MINUTES Sunday, March 17 (7:00-8:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Television Network.

In 2016 and 2017, 25 Americans – including CIA agents – working in the American embassy in Havana, Cuba, suffered serious brain injuries. The symptoms included vision problems and memory loss. The symptoms were very similar to those that 15 American officials serving in China say they experienced more recently. Werner is one of several who spoke to 60 MINUTES about the brain trauma they say they suffered in China and how they believe it was caused.

Werner’s mother who came to care for her daughter during her illness in China also became sickened, says Werner. They are both home now. Werner, 31, was a commercial trade officer promoting American business in the city of Guangzhou. She believes she was targeted and her health may be affected for life.

The U.S. State Department has called the Cuban events an attack, but has not classified the incidents in China as such. Several agencies are investigating those incidents. The State Department declined to speak to 60 MINUTES for this report, instead issuing this statement: “We will continue to provide our colleagues the care they need, regardless of their diagnosis or the location of their evacuation.”

Werner fears for others who may be subjected to the ordeal she has undergone and is speaking out as a warning to them. In this excerpt, she describes what happened to her and to her mother in China.

PELLEY: When did you first notice that you weren’t feeling well?

WERNER: October of 2017, I started to get hives all over my body. Really bad hives. I woke up with headaches every day. Um, I started to feel tired. The simplest things would just make me very, very tired.

PELLEY: Were these symptoms growing worse over time?

WERNER: They were. Yes. My symptoms would get so bad that I would throw up, or I would wake up with nose bleeds.

SHE SAYS EVEN HER DOGS WERE THROWING UP BLOOD. WERNER ASSUMED HER ILLNESS WAS CONNECTED TO CHINA’S TOXIC SMOG. SHE DIDN’T KNOW IT AT THE TIME BUT HER SYMPTOMS WERE THE SAME THAT AMERICAN OFFICIALS IN HAVANA HAD SUFFERED SINCE 2016. THE U.S. EMBASSY THERE IS ALL BUT CLOSED AS A RESULT.

WERNER: We hadn’t heard about what happened in Cuba. I mean, there were headlines in the news about hearing loss and um, attacks to our diplomats, but we didn’t know the details.

CATHERINE WERNER BECAME SO ILL, HER MOTHER TRAVELED FROM THE U.S. TO LIVE WITH HER.

WERNER: She spent almost three months with me. During that time, she also got very ill. And she and I shared the same symptoms.

PELLEY: What sort of symptoms did your mother have?

 WERNER: Headaches and um, ringing in our ears. Um, we also started to both um, have difficulty recalling words.

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Press Contact:

Kevin Tedesco

212 975-2329

kev@cbsnews.com