An ailing George H.W. Bush is in an intensive care unit in a Houston hospital, but he is alert and talking to medical staff, his spokesperson said Wednesday evening.

Hours after announcing the former U.S. president’s fever had risen, Jim McGrath said in an email that Bush had been placed in the ICU at Methodist Hospital on Sunday.

He said doctors are cautiously optimistic about his treatment, and that Bush “remains in guarded condition.”

McGrath said earlier that Bush’s fever had risen and he had been put on a liquid diet. Doctors had run tests and were treating the fever with medication.

"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."

The 88-year-old ex-president was admitted to hospital on Nov. 23 for a bronchitis-like cough.

Wife Barbara and other relatives visited Bush in the hospital on Christmas Day.

With files from The Associated Press