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Queen Elizabeth II leaves hospital after 1 night

LONDON -- Queen Elizabeth II returned home yesterday after treatment for a stomach infection that prompted a brief and rare hospitalization for the 86-year-old monarch.

A smiling Elizabeth walked unassisted out of King Edward VII Hospital in the afternoon, bidding farewell to staff outside. She was driven away in a motorcade.

"The queen has left the King Edward VII's Hospital having been admitted briefly as part of the assessment of symptoms of gastroenteritis," the palace said in a statement.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach, the intestine, or both, and it is generally caused either by food poisoning or the norovirus, a common vomiting bug that affects several hundred thousand Britons every winter but which is very rarely dangerous.

The queen canceled engagements for this week, but she could be back to work by next week. Doctors who weren't involved with her treatment believe she may have been hospitalized as a precaution.

It was the monarch's first hospitalization in 10 years, but it set off few alarm bells in Britain, where she is seen as being in excellent health. While not as physically active as she used to be, the queen still maintains a demanding schedule.

Unofficial court figures indicate she carried out roughly 400 official engagements in 2012 -- ranging from weekly one-on-one meetings with the prime minister to gatherings of 100 or more people.

Britain's royal-obsessed tabloids all wished her well, while the Daily Mail's royal correspondent, Richard Kay, wondered whether too much was expected of Elizabeth. The queen and Prince Philip, 91, spent hours on their feet in the cold and rain during last year's Diamond Jubilee river pageant.

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