Dianne Feinstein Says She Just Had a ‘Bad Flu’

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May 19, 2023

After it was revealed this week that Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D., Calif.) suffered worse complications during her months-long battle with shingles than previously revealed, the 89-year-old told reporters Thursday that she just had a "really bad flu."

Reporters asked Feinstein about her experience with encephalitis, a more serious complication of shingles that the New York Times reported she had. The senator said it "really has never been diagnosed."

"It was a really bad flu," Feinstein said. "I'm doing better, thank you."

Feinstein, who returned to the Capitol in a wheelchair last week after recovering at home for three months, also suffered from vision and balance impairments from Ramsay Hunt syndrome.

Feinstein this week seemed to forget about her prolonged absence.

"No, I haven’t been gone," she told reporters Tuesday after she was asked how her colleagues have treated her since she returned to the Senate.

"No, I’ve been here. I’ve been voting," Feinstein said. "Please. You either know or don’t know."

Feinstein's health battle and months-long absence led some in her party to call for her resignation, including Reps. Ro Khanna (Calif.) and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.).

Some in her party have come to her defense. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D., Calif.) told reporters this week that Feinstein is the "same serious-minded, determined Dianne."

Feinstein’s complications may affect her ability to return to work, the Times reported:

The virus also brought on a previously unreported case of encephalitis, a rare but potentially debilitating complication of shingles, according to two people familiar with the senator’s diagnosis who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe it.

Characterized by swelling of the brain, post-shingles encephalitis can leave patients with lasting memory or language problems, sleep disorders, bouts of confusion, mood disorders, headaches and difficulties walking.

Published under: Dianne Feinstein , Senate