Olivia Chow has lost her smile.
“A new year, a new look,” said Trinity-Spadina MP Chow at a Friday, Jan. 4, afternoon news conference to speak about her diagnosis of Ramsay Hunt syndrome type 2 – a viral infection that has caused her to lose control of the muscles in the left half of her face.
Chow said that she and her doctor caught the disease early over the holidays, and thanks to an aggressive prescription of steroids and antiviral drugs, the virus is gone from her body.
But it will be some time – weeks, months, or longer – before the nerve damage is able to heal and she can regain control of her facial muscles.
Chow, wearing eyeglasses because the paralysis makes it difficult to put in contact lenses, was upbeat when she spoke with reporters.
“Because I caught it early I had a very effective and fast treatment,” she said.
“As a result I have no pain right now and the only thing that is not working well is that I can’t smile in a balanced way. I can still smile, but not balanced. But that doesn’t stop me from working hard, pushing Stephen Harper on transit and infrastructure.”
Chow maintained that she is “extremely optimistic I will recover” and she minimized the impact it would have on her political career.
In addition to her work in Ottawa, polls show that Chow is the odds-on favourite to beat Toronto Mayor Rob Ford in a possible byelection this winter.
“Mr. Ford’s situation is still in front of the courts so we shall see what happens after Jan. 7 and what council decides,” said Chow.
“I am listening very seriously to what people are saying to me.”
The illness is caused by the same virus that causes chicken pox and shingles.
Chow recommended that older adults who may have suffered from chicken pox as a child to obtain a vaccination against the virus.