Brazilian president Bolsonaro hospitalized by hiccups that started 10 days ago and won't go away

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Brazilian president Bolsonaro hospitalized by hiccups that started 10 days ago and won't go away
Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro leaves Alvorada Palace, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Brasilia, Brazil, April 20, 2020. Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters
  • Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is in the hospital with chronic hiccups and stomach pain.
  • The far-right leader has had trouble public speaking in recent days.
  • The hiccups could be related to a hernia, medication, surgeries after a stabbing, or something else.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is in the hospital after an unending bout of hiccups has left him with abdominal pain.

Bolsonaro, who's had hiccups for more than 10 days, will be monitored and tested for up to 48 hours, though he may not stay in the hospital that whole time, a representative said, according to CNN. His administration said he's in good spirits, the Guardian reported.

The hospitalization is the latest health issue for the far-right leader, who over the past few years has been stabbed, contracted COVID-19, and, most recently, had difficulty speaking in public.

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Bolsonaro's shaky health

Bolsonaro's unrelenting hiccups have interrupted recent public appearances. On social media last Thursday, he said he'd had the hiccups for over a week and might not be able to speak properly. On Friday,a local outlet reported he had to leave a dinner due to illness. Then, on Tuesday, he told supporters he was "voiceless" and that if he talks too much, the hiccups return.

It's unclear what's causing the hiccups, but CNN said Bolsonaro has tied it to a medication he took after dental implant surgery. The outlet also said the president has an abdominal hernia that doctors are considering surgically removing.

It's also possible the leader's abdominal issues are related to the surgeries he underwent after being stabbed ahead of the 2018 election. The crime punctured Bolsonaro's organs, leaving him "almost dead," his son reported on social media.

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Hiccups are often triggered by something like a spicy food, stress, or a drug, which cause a spasm that sends a signal to the nerve that controls the epiglottis, Insider's Hilary Brueck previously reported. This alert forces the epiglottis to seal itself shut, prompt img the "hic" sound.

Downplaying the pandemic

Bolsonaro has been widely criticized for his lax handling of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 500,000 Brazilians.

"Our lives have to go on. Jobs must be kept ... We must, yes, get back to normal," Bolsonaro said during a speech in March. "With my history as an athlete, if I were infected with the virus, I would have no reason to worry. I would feel nothing, or it would be at most just a little flu."

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The president did contract the virus in early July 2020, but downplayed it then too, saying his symptoms were likely attributable to staying indoors, not the coronavirus. "I've caught mold, mold in my lungs. It must be that," he said.

Persistent hiccups have been reported as an unusual symptom of severe COVID-19, but it's unclear if they can also crop up after recovery.

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