Nelson Mandela waves as he arrives to attend the 2010 World Cup football final in Soweto, July 11, 2010.

Nelson Mandela, 94, Hospitalized With Lung Infection

Government spokesman: Infections 'always do' spread rapidly.

Nelson Mandela waves as he arrives to attend the 2010 World Cup football final in Soweto, July 11, 2010.
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Former South African President Nelson Mandela was admitted to a hospital late Wednesday night to be treated for a lung infection.

"He is conscious," government spokesman Mac Maharaj told the Independent Online. "He is receiving treatment to deal with the infection and to keep him comfortable."

Asked if the infection had spread rapidly, Maharaj said, "They always do," according to the Independent. In February, Mandela was briefly hospitalized for a stomach illness.

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"We appeal to the people of South Africa and the world to pray for our beloved Madiba and his family and to keep them in our thoughts," Maharaj said Wednesday, according to South Africa's Eyewitness News TV network.

The 94-year-old leader was made an international celebrity during the struggle against apartheid. He was released from prison by the country's minority white government in 1990 after 23 years behind bars.

Mandela was elected president in 1994 during the country's first national election that enfranchised black South Africans. As president, he encouraged reconciliation between races. He retired in 1999.

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