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A respiratory illness that strikes the elderly knocked homicide off the list of the top killers in the United States for the first time in 45 years in 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.

In its annual report on U.S. mortality, the CDC said a condition known as pneumonitis had replaced murder as a leading cause of death in the country.

The drop in deaths by homicides was expected. Last month, the FBI released a preliminary report on U.S. crime rates for 2010 that showed a 7.1 percent drop in murder between January and June, part of a wider drop in violent crime despite the country’s ongoing economic troubles.

Source: James B. Kelleher for Reuters.

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A respiratory illness that strikes the elderly knocked homicide off the list of the top…