South African Official: Nelson Mandela 'Able to Breathe Without Difficulty'

PHOTO: Former South African President, Nelson Mandela leaves a chapel in Johannesburg, South Africa, in this file photo.PlaySiphiwe Sibeko/AP Photo
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Former South African President Nelson Mandela is now able "to breathe without difficulty" while receiving treatment for a recurring lung infection, a spokesman for South Africa's president said today.

Mandela was admitted to the hospital late Wednesday night because of his recurring pneumonia, presidential spokesman Mac Maharaj said in a statement.

"Doctors advise that due to the lung infection former President Mandela has developed a pleural effusion which was tapped," the statement said. "This has resulted in him being now able to breathe without difficulty. He continues to respond to treatment and is comfortable."

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Mandela, 94, spent 18 days in the hospital in December for a lung infection and gallstones.

Earlier this month, he was hospitalized overnight for what authorities said was a successful, scheduled medical test, the Associated Press reported.

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"The Presidency wishes to acknowledge and thank all who have been praying for and sending messages of support to Madiba and his family," the statement said, using Mandela's clan name.

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Despite rare public appearances, Mandela, who is credited with changing race relations in South Africa, remains hugely popular in the country.

After enduring nearly three decades of prison, much of it at hard labor in a lime quarry, Mandela emerged as a gentle leader who was elected South Africa's first black president in 1994.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his leadership in ending apartheid, and later became a global statesman who inspired millions of people around the world.

ABC News' Anthony Castellano contribued to this report.