- The Washington Times - Monday, June 1, 2009

The health of Sen. Robert C. Byrd, the longest serving member in Senate history, has taken a turn for the worse and prompted doctors to extend the lawmaker’s hospital stay, his office said Monday.

Mr. Byrd, 91, was admitted to the hospital two weeks ago with what his office described as an infection. His office said Monday that the West Virginia Democrat would remain hospitalized because he had since contracted a more serious staph infection.

“This, in turn, has delayed his departure from the hospital at this time,” said a statement from Mr. Byrd’s office. “Doctors have been treating him with antibiotics for the infection and he has been responding well. There has been no additional indication as to when he will be released from the hospital.”

The illness comes as Democrats are hoping a contested Senate race in Minnesota will soon give the party a 60-vote majority that could block Republican filibusters.

A staph infection is a bacterial infection. It can range from a simple boil to antibiotic-resistant infections to flesh-eating infections.

Staph infections of the skin, which usually begin with a small cut that becomes infected with bacteria, are very common. But the symptoms tend to be more severe in people with weak immune systems.

Mr. Byrd, who was first elected in 1958, was re-elected in 2006 to a ninth term as a senator with 64 percent of the vote.

His office initially announced he was hospitalized May 15 with a minor infection that caused a fever. At that time, the office said he was responding to treatment with antibiotics and was expected to be released within a few days.

Health concerns have dogged Mr. Byrd in recent years, requiring him to be hospitalized three times last year. His declining health likely contributed to his decision last year to step down as chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Jesse Jacobs, a spokesman for Mr. Byrd, said that, at the request of the family, he would not identify the hospital where Mr. Byrd was staying.

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