The Masque of the Red Death

 
image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Harry Clarke

image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Harry Clarke

Forget the Senate Finance Committee’s Gang of Six — the hottest health care story in Congress may soon be the Senate Page Program Five. 

 
As in Edgar Allan Poe’s pre-SARS tale of uninvited pestilence surprising opulent wealth, America’s political Princes Prospero have unmasked an unwelcome H1N1 party crasher in the midst of their gilded ballroom of bloviation.
 
Five party crashers, to be precise.
 
To be even more medically precise, “The Senate Page Program is reporting that five of our summer pages are exhibiting flu-like symptoms—slightly elevated temperature, cough, and sore throats – and the Office of Attending Physician believes that they most likely have influenza, quite possibly the H1N1 virus,” according to an e-mail sent July 29 to members of the Senate Press Gallery.
 
Furthermore, “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.” Given the checkered treatment the young pages have historically “enjoyed” at the hands of their elected employers, sequestration is probably a safe move, and not simply for health reasons.
 
In any case, the emergence of the porcine plague vectors just days before the exposed senators jet off to all 50 states won’t be welcome news to any of their H1N1-naive constituents, particularly among voters who recall the apocalyptic role air travel played in Terry Gilliam’s “12 Monkeys.”
 
No word from Sen. Max Baucus’ office on whether the infected pages’ employer will be mandated to cover their health care costs.
—Terry Rudd

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Filed under Emergency Medicine, Infectious Diseases, Pediatrics

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