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HEALTH

Italy’s former PM Silvio Berlusconi hospitalised with Covid-19

Italy's former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who recently tested positive for the novel coronavirus, has been hospitalised "as a precaution", a statement from his entourage said on Friday.

Italy's former PM Silvio Berlusconi hospitalised with Covid-19
Silvio Berlusconi pictured while Italian Prime Minister in 2011. File Photo: AFP

It said the media tycoon was taken to San Raffaele hospital in Milan on Thursday night after suffering “certain symptons”, but there was “no cause for concern.”

Berlusconi and his children tested positive for the virus on Wednesday, becoming the latest among Italy's super rich to be hit after holidaying along
Sardinia's glamorous Emerald Coast.
 
The AGI news agency said Berlusconi, who turns 84 at the end of this month, was hospitalised in a room that he often occupies when he stays at the
facility. AGI said this indicates that his condition is not serious, or he would be in intensive care.
 
Licia Ronzulli, a senator with Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, said the former prime minister “spent the night in hospital to check on his
condition… but he is fine.”

 
Two of his children – daughter Barbara, 36, and son Luigi, 31 – have also contracted the virus, as has his companion Marta Fascina.

 
READ ALSO: Is Italy really heading for a coronavirus second wave?
 

Berlusconi, the scandal-hit politician who once owned AC Milan, had said on Wednesday that he would continue his political activities from his home in Milan.
 
“I will be present in the electoral campaign with interviews on televisions and in newspapers,” he said during a Forza italia party video conference.
 
His doctor Alberto Zangrillo said on Wednesday he was “asymptomatic.”
 
Zangrilio himself was embroiled in controversy in June after claiming that the virus “no longer exists”.

 
 
Regional elections are due to take place in two weeks as well as a referendum on reducing the number of Italian parliamentarians.
 
Berlusconi was first tested on August 25 after returning from a holiday in Sardinia where he owns a luxury villa and estate worth up to 470 million euros.
 
The result was negative, but he was tested again after friends in the area were found to be positive.
 
These included businessman Flavio Briatore, former managing director of the Benetton Formula One racing team, who was briefly hospitalised in Milan.
 
 
Part of the closed “Billionaire resort in Sardinia closed due to Covid-19. Photo: AFP
 
One of the best-known hangouts for the rich and famous is the “Le Billionaire” nightclub, part of a resort which belongs to Italian businessman and former
managing director of the Benetton Formula One racing team Flavio Briatore.
 
The nightclub was closed down in August after Briatore and employees tested positive for the coronavirus.

 
Ten days before, Briatore met Berlusconi at his home along the same coastline, according to local news reports.
 
Several other celebrities spotted at the nightclub also tested positive for Covid-19, including Bologna football club manager Sinisa Mihajlovic – who
underwent treatment for leukaemia last year – reports said.
 
 
Local television personalities, some 10 footballers, a boxer and one politician were also infected, the Corriere della Sera reported.

 
Berlusconi left for France in late February, at a time when Italy was becoming the epicentre of Covid-19 in Europe.
 
Forza Italia number two Antonio Tajani said at the time that doctors had warned the political veteran to actively avoid becoming infected.

 
One of the best-known hangouts for the rich and famous is the “Le Billionaire” nightclub, part of a resort which belongs to Italian businessman and former
managing director of the Benetton Formula One racing team Flavio Briatore.
 
The nightclub was closed down in August after Briatore and employees tested positive for the coronavirus.
 
 
More than 35,500 people have died in Italy – the first country in Europe to be hit by a major outbreak – the latest government figures said on Friday. The country, where almost 273,000 cases have been reported, emerged in May from a strict two-month lockdown.
 
Berlusconi's hospitalisation marks his return to the San Raffaele facility where he has been receiving treatment for years.
 
In the spring of 2019, he was operated on for an intestinal obstruction at the same facility where he underwent open-heart surgery in June 2016.
 
Berlusconi, known for his penchant for younger women and wild parties, in the past used his vitality as a political argument.
 
“Even as we grow older, we do not shrink from the responsibilities to which we have been called and which life continues to impose on us,” he said in 2016.
 
“Basically we are not really 80, but four times 20,” he said.

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MONKEYPOX

Semen ‘a vehicle’ for monkeypox infection, say Italian health experts

Researchers in Italy who were first to identify the presence of monkeypox in semen are broadening their testing, saying early results suggest sperm can transmit infection.

Semen 'a vehicle' for monkeypox infection, say Italian health experts

A team at Rome’s Spallanzani Hospital, which specialises in infectious diseases, revealed in a study published on June 2nd that the virus DNA was detected in semen of three out of four men diagnosed with monkeypox.

They have since expanded their work, according to director Francesco Vaia, who said researchers have found the presence of monkeypox in the sperm of 14 infected men out of 16 studied.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: How is Italy dealing with rising monkeypox cases?

“This finding tells us that the presence of the virus in sperm is not a rare or random occurrence,” Vaia told AFP in an interview.

He added: “The infection can be transmitted during sexual intercourse by direct contact with skin lesions, but our study shows that semen can also be a vehicle for infection.”

Researchers at Spallanzani identified Italy’s first cases of monkeypox, found in two men who had recently returned from the Canary Islands.

The latest results reported by Vaia have not yet been published or subject to peer review.

Since early May, a surge of monkeypox cases has been detected outside of the West and Central African countries where the disease has long been endemic. Most of the new cases have been in Western Europe.

More than 3,400 confirmed cases and one death have now been reported to the World Health Organisation from more than 50 countries this year.

The vast majority of cases so far have been observed in men who have sex with men, of young age, chiefly in urban areas, in “clustered social and sexual networks”, according to the WHO.

It is investigating cases of semen testing positive for monkeypox, but has maintained the virus is primarily spread through close contact.

Meg Doherty, director of the WHO’s global HIV, hepatitis and sexually-transmitted infection programmes, said last week: “We are not calling this a sexually-transmitted infection.”

Could antivirals curb the spread of monkeypox?

Spallanzani researchers are now trying to ascertain how long the virus is present in sperm after the onset of symptoms.

In one patient, virus DNA was detected three weeks after symptoms first appeared, even after lesions had disappeared – a phenomenon Vaia said had been seen in the past in viral infections such as Zika.

That could indicate that the risk of transmission of monkeypox could be lowered by the use of condoms in the weeks after recovery, he said.

The Spallanzani team is also looking at vaginal secretions to study the presence of the virus.

A significant finding from the first study was that when the virus was cultured in the lab, it was “present in semen as a live, infectious virus efficient in reproducing itself”, Vaia told AFP.

Vaia cautioned that there remained many unanswered questions on monkeypox, including whether antiviral therapies could shorten the time in which people with the virus could infect others.

Another is whether the smallpox vaccine could protect people from the monkeypox virus.

“To study this we will analyse people who were vaccinated 40 years ago before human smallpox was declared to have disappeared,” Vaia said.

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