By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Former U.S. President George H.W. Bush, 90, was hospitalized in Houston, Texas, late on Tuesday after experiencing shortness of breath, a spokesman for the 41st commander-in-chief said in a statement.
Bush's latest health scare came two years after he was struck by illness during the 2012 holiday season. He spent seven weeks in a Houston hospital for bronchitis and related ailments before his discharge in mid-January of 2013.
On Tuesday evening, the former president "was taken by ambulance to the Houston Methodist Hospital as a precaution after experiencing a shortness of breath," according to his spokesman, Jim McGrath.
Bush "will be held for observation, again as a precaution," McGrath said in a statement.
The former president, a Republican, grew so ill during his previous hospitalization that he was believed at one point to be near death, and members of his family gathered around him.
However, he marked 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 father, titled "41 - A Portrait of My Father."
President Barack Obama wished his predecessor well in a statement issued by White House spokesman Eric Schultz from Hawaii, where Obama was vacationing with his family.
"The president has been made aware that President Bush was admitted to the hospital," 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."
The elder Bush served as vice president for eight years during Ronald Reagan's two terms as president before being elected president himself, defeating former Massachusetts Governor Michael Dukakis, the Democratic nominee, in 1988.
Bush took office in 1989 and served one term in the White House, during which he organized the U.S.-led military coalition that defeated Iraqi forces after Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait.
He lost his 1992 re-election bid to Democrat Bill Clinton.
Bush also served as a congressman, a U.N. ambassador, U.S. envoy to China and CIA director before becoming Reagan's running mate in 1980.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland in WASHINGTON and Julia Edwards in HONOLULU; Writing by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Robert Birsel and Paul Tait)