Minnelli Recovering From Encephalitis, Doctor Says

ByABC News

October 23, 2000 -- The physician of Oscar-winning actress Liza Minnelli confirmed today that the actress is being treated for a potentially fatal virus in a Florida hospital.

"Liza Minnelli has been a patient here for the last several days," Dr. Maurice Hanson told Reuters. "She is being treated for viral encephalitis. She was quite sick and was in very serious condition but is now recovering well and we expect to release her in a few days."

Hospital officials declined to provide details about Minnelli's treatment for the encephalitis, a disease that can cause seizures and paralysis. Details on how Minnelli contracted the disease, which is primarily spread by mosquitoes carrying the virus, were not released.

Minnelli, 54, was rushed to a Fort Lauderdale hospital on Thursday, just three days after she had spent eight days in the intensive care unit with alleged hip and back problems. Her doctor says she was indeed being treated for encephalitis and that she returned to the hospital after becoming dehydrated.

"We request that you respect Ms. Minnelli's rights as a patient and allow her the privacy she deserves," said Dr. Hanson. "I have spoken with Ms. Minnelli and she wishes to thank you for your care and concern," he added.

The New York Post broke the story today that the star, who has been in and out of the hospital several times this year, was seriously ill with encephalitis, a rare affliction that affects from 150 to 3,000 people per year.

Minnelli reportedly was in Fort Lauderdale awaiting hip surgery, but her doctors wanted to postpone the operation until the performer lost weight.

On Oct. 8, paramedics were called after a chauffeur and a bodyguard discovered the actress suffering from what looked to be a possible stroke. Fort Lauderdale Fire-Rescue Division Chief Stephen McInerny said the actress appeared to have paralysis on one side of her body, slurred speech, and drooping facial muscles — all conditions that can be caused by encephalitis.

Minnelli, the daughter of late Hollywood legend Judy Garland and film director Vincente Minnelli, rose to fame in 1972, when she won the Best Actress Oscar for the cinematic adaptation of the Broadway hit Cabaret.

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