US Senator Feinstein still suffering complications from shingles, her office says

Dianne Feinstein on Capitol Hill in Washington

By Costas Pitas

(Reuters) -U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who returned to Washington last week after a months-long absence due to shingles, is continuing to suffer from a medical complication known as Ramsay Hunt syndrome, a spokesperson said on Thursday.

Feinstein had also previously suffered encephalitis, her office said, after the New York Times reported on medical conditions that had not been publicly disclosed.

“While the encephalitis resolved itself shortly after she was released from the hospital in March, she continues to have complications from Ramsay Hunt syndrome," a spokesperson for the 89-year-old Democrat said.

Ramsay Hunt Syndrome affects the facial nerve and can cause partial facial paralysis or weakness.

Feinstein said earlier on Thursday that she did not have encephalitis, saying it "really has never been diagnosed," CNN reported.

First elected to the Senate in 1992, Feinstein had been sidelined since February as she recovered from shingles. Her absence led to calls from some fellow Democrats that she step aside and allow someone else to take her place.

The Senate Judiciary Committee that she sits on was deadlocked with her away, slowing Democrats' drive to approve some of President Joe Biden's most controversial nominees to vacant court positions.

Feinstein, who will not seek re-election in 2024, said on May 10 after her return to Washington that she would work a lighter schedule and that she was experiencing some side effects of her illness, which included vision and balance impairments.

"I'm back in Washington, voting and attending committee meetings while I recover from complications related to a shingles diagnosis," Feinstein said in a statement provided earlier on Thursday to the New York Times. "I continue to work and get results for California."

(Reporting by Costas Pitas in Los Angeles; Editing by Alistair Bell and Tim Ahmann)