Senate Pages May Have Swine Flu

Posted July 28, 2009 at 8:46pm

Updated: 10:17 p.m.

Five Senate pages may have contracted swine flu, leading officials to warn Members and staffers to take precautions.

In an e-mail sent to staffers Tuesday night, Senate Sergeant-at-Arms Terrance Gainer said the pages “quite possibly— have the H1N1 virus, though they haven’t yet been given the test. They have slightly elevated temperatures, coughs and sore throats.

“The pages are resting comfortably apart from their peers and will not be allowed to return to work until cleared by the Physician’s Office,— Gainer wrote. “While it is not unusual for several pages in a class of 50 to be ill at any given time, we are aware that the flu is of particular concern to our community right now.—

Gainer said in an interview that officials have been monitoring the situation for a couple of days, asking the Architect of the Capitol to be “extra vigilant— about cleaning and sanitizing. On Tuesday, he said, it became apparent that the pages could have swine flu, though he added that their symptoms have been very mild.

A test to confirm the diagnosis would be uncomfortable, he said, and the results would not alter the treatment. But doctors are “presuming that any flu is H1N1.—

“The Office of the Attending Physician is closely monitoring the situation and does not believe that further actions on the part of the Senate Community are necessary at this time,— he wrote in the e-mail. “If that changes, we will let you know.—

Pages have close contact with the Senate community, answering phones and delivering messages for staffers and Members. As juniors in high school, they stay in a dorm near the Capitol. Gainer said the sick pages were in separate rooms from the rest of the group. None plan to go home early, but their terms as pages will end when the Senate goes into recess.

Gainer said Senators, staffers and others in the Senate community should frequently wash their hands and stay home if they’re feeling ill. In his e-mail, he also advised staff to ensure “that you and your colleagues are prepared to work from home if a pandemic flu strikes this area.—

But in the interview, he said he doesn’t expect to close down buildings or disrupt the Senate.

“This is the first opportunity that we can use not to panic,— he said, later adding, “What we’re trying to do is provide straight-forward, honest information that should be calming.—