Swine flu hits Senate pages on Capitol Hill -- maybe
Senate pages -- those high school juniors who come to Washington every year to get a first-hand introduction to politics by serving as interns in the Senate while going to school -- are in the news again.
This time, it's not a scandal, like the one that drove Florida Republican Mark Foley from office after it was revealed that he had been sending sexual messages to male pages. Amid the ensuing controversy, which helped propel Democrats back into power in the House in 2006, Foley resigned from Congress and the page board -- which is supposed to monitor the kids' dorm living conditions, schooling and work hours -- was reorganized.
The problem now? Swine flu. At least they think it's a possibility.
Senate Sgt. at Arms Terry Gainer said today that six Senate pages are sick with flu symptoms that could be H1N1. The dreaded swine flu killed more than 150 people in Mexico during an epidemic in the spring. But in this case, two of the pages are already back at work.
Doctors are "not overly concerned" about an outbreak of the virus on Capitol Hill, Gainer told CNN, adding that all 53 students in the Senate page program were told "not to panic," to "wash their hands" and to stay home from work if they don't feel well. That's the official line from health officials as they brace for a possible onslaught of swine flu cases in the fall.
In the meantime, Gainer's assessment: "The sky is not falling."
-- Johanna Neuman
Photo: Senate pages carry ballot boxes through Statuary Hall toward the House Chamber so electoral votes can be counted during a joint session of Congress on Jan. 8, 2009, to officially designate Barack Obama as president-elect. Credit: Getty Images