Former US president George H. W. Bush, 90, in hospital: Spokesman

Former President George H. W. Bush applauds during an event to honor the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House in Washington in this July 15, 2013 file image. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 
Former President George H. W. Bush applauds during an event to honor the winner of the 5,000th Daily Point of Light Award at the White House in Washington in this July 15, 2013 file image. -- PHOTO: REUTERS 

WASHINGTON (AFP/REUTERS) - Former United States president George H. W. Bush has been admitted to a Texas hospital suffering shortness of breath on Tuesday evening, a family spokesman said on Tuesday.

"President Bush was taken by ambulance to the Houston Methodist Hospital as a precaution after experiencing a shortness of breath earlier this evening," his spokesman Jim McGrath said. "The former president, age 90, will be held for observation, again as a precaution."

President Barack Obama wished his predecessor well in a statement issued by White House spokesman Eric Schultz from Hawaii, where Mr Obama was vacationing with his family. “The President has been made aware that President Bush was admitted to the hospital,” Mr Schultz said. “President Obama and the first lady send their good wishes to the former president and the entire Bush family during this holiday season.”

Mr Bush’s latest health scare came two years after he was struck by illness during the 2012 holiday season and ended up spending seven weeks in a Houston hospital for bronchitis and related ailments, before his discharge in mid-January of 2013.

The former president grew so ill during his previous hospitalisation that he was believed at one point to be near death, and members of his family gathered around him.

But he recovered and went on to mark his 90th birthday this year by taking a parachute jump in Kennebunkport, Maine. His eldest son, former president George W. Bush, just published a best-selling book about his dad, titled “41 – A Portrait of My Father”.

The elder Bush served as vice-president for eight years during the late former president Ronald Reagan’s two terms as president before being elected president himself, defeating former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, in 1988.

Massachusetts-born George H.W. Bush, the son of a senator, served only one presidential term, from 1989-1993.

Beaten by Bill Clinton in 1992, he saw his eldest son George W. Bush, take over eight years later. The elder Bush is father to six children.

Mr Jeb Bush, another son of Bush Sr., threw his hat into the ring for the 2016 White House race just this month, announcing he was laying the groundwork for a campaign.

The 61-year-old former Florida governor said he has "decided to actively explore the possibility of running," making him the first serious Republican contender to announce a likely run.

Jockeying is under way ahead of primaries to choose a challenger for presumptive Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton in the election to decide the successor to Mr Obama.