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updated: 3/4/2013 9:20 AM

Queen Elizabeth leaves hospital after stomach bug

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  • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II leaves the King Edward VII hospital following a one-day stay caused by a stomach ailment, London Monday, March 4, 2013. The 86-year-old queen fell ill Friday and was being treated at Windsor Castle until Sunday, when she was moved to a central London hospital as a precaution. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

      Britain's Queen Elizabeth II leaves the King Edward VII hospital following a one-day stay caused by a stomach ailment, London Monday, March 4, 2013. The 86-year-old queen fell ill Friday and was being treated at Windsor Castle until Sunday, when she was moved to a central London hospital as a precaution. (AP Photo/Alastair Grant)

 
Associated Press

LONDON -- Queen Elizabeth II left the London hospital where she'd been treated for the symptoms of a stomach infection Monday, following a brief and rare hospitalization for the 86-year-old head of state.

A smiling Elizabeth walked unassisted out of King Edward VII Hospital Monday afternoon before saying goodbye to staff. She was then driven away in a motorcade.

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"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 brief statement issued after her release.

Gastroenteritis is an inflammation of the stomach and/or the intestine, generally caused either by food poisoning or the norovirus, a common winter vomiting bug that affects several hundred thousand Britons every year.

The queen has canceled engagements for this week due to the illness. It was her first hospitalization in 10 years.

The queen fell ill Friday and was being treated at Windsor Castle until Sunday, when she was moved to a central London hospital as a precaution.

Palace officials say she is otherwise in good health.

"As a precaution, all official engagements for this week will regrettably be either postponed or canceled," the palace said in a statement. Elizabeth's two-day trip to Rome had been planned to start Wednesday. A spokeswoman said the trip may be "reinstated" at a later date.

The symptoms of gastroenteritis -- vomiting and diarrhea -- usually pass after one or two days, although they can be more severe in older or otherwise vulnerable people.

Dehydration is a common complication.

The illness was announced Friday, and Elizabeth had to cancel a visit Swansea, Wales, on Saturday to present leeks -- a national symbol -- to soldiers of the Royal Welsh Regiment in honor of Wales' national day, St. David's Day. She instead spent the day trying to recover at Windsor Castle, but appears to have had trouble kicking the bug.

A doctor not involved in the queen's treatment said if medical officials determined she is losing too much fluid, she would be rehydrated intravenously.

"Not everyone can keep up with oral hydration so it is pretty routine to go to hospital and have a drip and wait for the thing to pass and keep yourself hydrated," said Dr. Christopher Hawkey of the University of Nottingham's faculty of medicine and health sciences.

Britain's National Health Service says the two most common causes of gastroenteritis in adults are food poisoning and the norovirus, a common winter vomiting bug which typically afflicts between 600,000 and 1 million Britons each year.

British health guidelines advise people with the norovirus avoid work for at least two days.

"It's very infectious and strikes in winter because people are indoors and it spreads more easily," Hawkey said.

Elizabeth has ruled since 1952 and is Britain's second-longest serving monarch, beaten only by Queen Victoria in terms of the number of years spent on the throne.

Elizabeth's husband Prince Philip, 91, has had several hospital stays, but Elizabeth has rarely let sickness get in the way of her still-busy schedule.

About five months ago, she canceled an engagement due to a bad back. The spokeswoman, who demanded anonymity because palace rules do not let her go on the record, said the last time Elizabeth was hospitalized was in 2003.

The queen has undertaken a number of engagements over the past week. On Tuesday, she met the new archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, at Buckingham Palace, and on Thursday she presented a host of British Olympians, including track and field star Jessica Ennis, with honors during an investiture ceremony.

Ingrid Seward, the editor of the Britain's Majesty Magazine, said that the queen "probably agreed to be hospitalized in order to get better quickly."

"Everybody will want to be wishing her a speedy recovery," she told Sky News television.

That includes British Prime Minister David Cameron, whose office said he passed on his best wishes to the queen.

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