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April 19, 2018

HHS secretary readmitted to hospital with diverticulitis

Daily Briefing

    HHS Secretary Alex Azar on Tuesday evening was readmitted to an Indiana hospital for further observation regarding a case of diverticulitis, according to an HHS statement released Wednesday.

    Azar's hospital stays

    Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a longtime friend of Azar, said Azar started to feel sick over the weekend. According to the Washington Post, Fauci said Azar contacted him and his regular physician and said he felt lower abdominal pain. An imaging study confirmed that Azar had diverticulitis, Fauci.

    HHS on Sunday confirmed Azar's initial hospital stay, saying Azar was admitted to St. Vincent's Hospital in Indianapolis Sunday night for a "minor infection." HHS said Azar "was treated with intravenous antibiotics" and remained in the hospital overnight for observation "out of an abundance of caution."

    HHS released an update Monday that said Azar remained "fully functional during his brief period of observation and has been in regular contact with HHS senior leadership." He returned to work on Tuesday.

    However, Fauci said Azar developed a fever after he was discharged from the hospital on Monday, the Washington Post reports.

    HHS on Wednesday said Azar was readmitted to the hospital for additional observation and treatment of diverticulitis, an infection that occurs when pouches in the wall of the colon are infected or inflamed. According to the Wall Street Journal, cases of diverticulitis can cause severe pain and in some cases can require surgery.


    Fauci said when he spoke with Azar early Wednesday, the secretary said doctors "didn't think there was any need for surgery." Fauci added that doctors are monitoring Azar for signs of any complications, such as a fever, and that the doctors are checking his blood cell count, because the infection could spread. Fauci said Azar will be on antibiotics for "at least five days. Notably, his main concern is that he wants to get back to work."

    Alyssa Parian, an assistant professor of gastroenterology at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, said Azar being readmitted to the hospital does "not rais[e] huge alarms," and that he could be experiencing worsening pain or reacting to one his antibiotics (Amour, Wall Street Journal, 4/18; Goldstein/Sun, Washington Post, 4/18).

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