Italy: Berlusconi hospitalized with COVID-19 as precaution

ROME (AP) — Former Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week, has an early-stage lung infection but was breathing on his own hours after being hospitalized in Milan Friday and isn’t being intubated, his personal physician said.

Alberto Zangrillo, who is also on the staff of San Raffaele hospital, where Berlusconi was taken in the early hours of the day, told reporters that test results are reassuring and “make us optimistic” for his recovery over the next “hours and days.”

Zangrillo said after that examining Berlusconi at home a day earlier he decided it best to hospitalize him after detecting “bland pulmonary involvement.”

The decision also took into consideration his age — the politician turns 84 in a few weeks — and previous health conditions, which included heart problems that necessitated a pacemaker implant several years ago.

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Earlier, Italian state radio said tests showed the media mogul had the “beginnings” of pneumonia in both lungs.

But Zangrillo, answering reporters questions, referred to the lung problem as a “pulmonary infections in its first stages.” He said Berlusconi isn’t being intubated, but is “breathing spontaneously” and is expected to be hospitalized for a ‘’few days.”

Zangrillo is in charge of intensive care and anesthesiology at San Raffaele Hospital.

Berlusconi was reported to be in isolation in a 6th floor section of the hospital set aside for VIPs. He had been there several times in past years for previous medical problems.

Sky TG24, reporting from outside the hospital, said Berlusconi had been given oxygen at the hospital to aid his breathing, but Zangrillo made no mention of it.

Sky also said he arrived by private car and walked into the hospital.

On Thursday, Berlusconi, speaking in a strong but somewhat nasal voice from his estate on the outskirts of Milan, told his supporters via audio hookup he no longer had fever or pain.

“Unfortunately this isn’t a cold,” La Stampa newspaper quoted Berlusconi as saying on Thursday. ”Now it touches me — but not only me, but also my family — I realize more than ever how grave” the pandemic is.

He was further quoted as saying that earlier in the week, besides fever, he had muscle and bone pain, “but it passed.”

In 1997, Berlusconi successfully battled prostate cancer. In 2006, he had heart tests at San Raffaele after fainting during a speech. A few weeks later he was fitted with a pacemaker at a U.S. hospital. He also has had bowel surgery and suffered an inflammatory eye condition in the past.

Berlusconi spent some of his summer vacation at his seaside villa on Sardinia’s Emerald Coast. Many of Italy’s recent cases of COVID-19 have been linked to clusters in people who vacationed on Sardinia.

After being convicted of tax fraud in 2013, he had to surrender his Senate seat. He is currently a lawmaker in the European Parliament.

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