Toronto MP Olivia Chow says she’s recovering and feeling well after being diagnosed with a virus that affects the movement of one side of her face.

Chow announced she was recovering from Ramsay Hunt syndrome in a Friday statement, saying she looks somewhat different these days but remains healthy and in fine shape to work.

“One of the symptoms of Ramsay Hunt syndrome is a temporary disorder of the nerve that controls movement of the muscles in the face,” she said. “In my case, it has affected the left side of my face, making it difficult to smile, laugh and put in my contact lens… It will not affect my work as a Member of Parliament. I continue to swim, run and bike regularly. You will just have to imagine that I am smiling.”

Chow’s illness is Ramsay Hunt syndrome type 2, which is caused by the varicella zoster virus, which also causes shingles and chicken pox. It infects a facial nerve near the inner ear, causing weakness, inflammation and sometimes pain. It is often treated using anti-viral medication, with full recovery coming sometimes within a few weeks. In more severe cases, some people never regain full control of the affected part of their face.

"While this is certainly an inconvenience, thankfully I received fast and effective treatment,” Chow said, adding she sought help after waking up one day during the holidays with facial discomfort following an illness that had lowered her immune defences. "I am learning to be patient as it will take time for my left facial nerves to fully recover. It could take weeks, months or longer.”

In a news conference held Friday afternoon, Chow elaborated on her condition, saying she’s not in pain and is “extremely optimistic” she will recover.

She said she was treated with steroids and anti-viral drugs and was told she has a mild case of the syndrome.

Chow stressed that she remains committed to her Parliamentary work, and that her life won’t suffer greatly from the diagnosis.

"Overcoming challenges and adversity is something I have always done,” said Chow, whose husband Jack Layton, the former federal NDP leader, died in 2011, shortly after their party won a historic number of seats in Parliament.

“While I may have some difficulty smiling for a while, I will continue to work hard and have fun. And I look forward to pushing for more investment for transit and infrastructure in the upcoming federal budget."

Chow, who represents Toronto’s Trinity-Spadina riding, has been rumoured to be considering a run for the city’s mayor job.