Photo: Darko Vojinovic, AP
ROME (AP) — Former Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi, who tested positive for COVID-19 this week, has an early-stage lung infection but was breathing on his own after being hospitalized in Milan and hasn’t been intubated, his personal physician said Friday.
Alberto Zangrillo, who is also on the staff of San Raffaele Hospital, where Berlusconi was taken early in the day, told reporters that test results were reassuring and “make us optimistic” for the 83-year-old business mogul’s recovery over the next “hours and days.”
“I can say now, clearly, looking you in the eye, the clinical indications, backed by diagnostic tests, are calming, comforting” regarding Berlusconi’s condition, the doctor said.
Zangrillo said he examined Berlusconi at home a day earlier and decided it best to hospitalize him after detecting “bland pulmonary involvement.”
Berlusconi, he said, resisted at first — “his mood’s not the best” — but agreed to be hospitalized after hearing the details of his condition, Zangrillo said.
The decision also took into consideration his age — the former three-time premier turns 84 in a few weeks — and previous health conditions, which included heart problems that necessitated a pacemaker implant several years ago.
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 infection in its first stages.” He said Berlusconi isn’t on a ventilator but is “breathing spontaneously.”
That, along with other medical test results, “lets us be optimistic over the next hours and the next days” about the prognosist, he said.
Zangrillo is in charge of intensive care and anesthesiology at San Raffaele Hospital. However, Zangrillo stressed that his patient isn’t in intensive care.
Instead, 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 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.
Italian media have said that two of his adult children, with whom he recently spent time on the island of Capri, were recently diagnosed with COVID-19. Berlusconi’s companion, a young woman who formerly worked at the office of the soccer team he used to own, also reportedly tested positive for the virus.
Asked if any family members were hospitalized, Zangrillo said no.
Berlusconi referred to himself and his family when he said about COVID-19 in comments to Italy’s La Stampa newspaper on Thursday: “Unfortunately this isn’t a cold…Now I realize more than ever how grave” the pandemic is.
The newspaper further quoted him as saying that he had a fever and muscle and bone pain earlier in the week, “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.
After testing positive for the virus this week, Berlusconi vowed to keep campaigning for Forza Italia, the center-right party he created more than 25 years ago, ahead of upcoming regional elections.
The party lost its popularity with Italian voters in recent years as he battled legal problems linked to his media empire and his famed “bunga bunga” parties with young women.
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