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Updated Thursday, December 27, 2012 at 05:48 AM

Ex-President George H.W. Bush in intensive care

By RAMIT PLUSHNICK-MASTI
Associated Press

Former President George H.W. Bush remained in guarded condition overnight in the intensive care unit at a Houston hospital after a day marked by "a series of setbacks including persistent fever," according to his spokesman.

In a brief email Wednesday, Jim McGrath, Bush's spokesman in Houston, said the 88-year-old former leader had been admitted Sunday to the ICU at Methodist Hospital. McGrath said Bush, the oldest living former U.S. president, was alert and talking to medical staff, adding that doctors are cautiously optimistic about his treatment.

No other details were released about his medical condition, but McGrath said Bush is surrounded by family.

Bush has been hospitalized since Nov. 23, when he was admitted for a lingering cough related to bronchitis after having been in and out of the hospital for complications related to the illness.

Earlier Wednesday, McGrath said, a fever that kept Bush in the hospital over Christmas had gotten worse and that doctors had put him on a liquids-only diet.

"It's an elevated fever, so it's actually gone up in the last day or two," McGrath told The Associated Press. "It's a stubborn fever that won't go away."

But he said the cough that initially brought Bush to the hospital has improved.

Bush was visited on Christmas by his wife, Barbara, his son, Neil, and Neil's wife, Maria, and a grandson, McGrath said. Bush's daughter, Dorothy, was expected to arrive Wednesday in Houston from Bethesda, Md. The 41st president has also been visited twice by his sons, George W. Bush, the 43rd president, and Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida.

Bush and his wife live in Houston during the winter and spend their summers at a home in Kennebunkport, Maine.

The former president was a naval aviator in World War II - at one point the youngest in the Navy - and was shot down over the Pacific. He achieved notoriety in retirement for skydiving on at least three of his birthdays since leaving the White House in 1992.

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Plushnick-Masti can be followed on Twitter at https://twitter.com/RamitMastiAP


CHARLES KRUPA / AP
Former President George H.W. Bush and his wife, former first lady Barbara Bush, in June.




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