WASHINGTON (CNN) - Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday morning he has advised his family to avoid "confined places" such as aircraft, subways and classrooms because of the swine flu risk.
Biden made the remarks on NBC's "Today Show," after he was asked what he would tell a family member about traveling to Mexico, where the first cases of the virus - technically known as 2009 H1N1 - were detected.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia, is advising people to avoid nonessential travel to Mexico, where the Mexican government suspects 159 deaths have resulted from the infection, most of them in or around Mexico City. Only a fraction of those cases have been confirmed.
"The CDC is concerned that continued travel by U.S. travelers to Mexico presents a serious risk for further outbreaks of swine flu in the United States," the agency says on its Web site.
But Biden appeared to go a step further, saying, "I would tell members of my family, and I have, I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now. It's not that you're going to Mexico, it's you're in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me.
"I would not be, at this point, if they had another way of transportation, (be) suggesting they ride the subway. ... So from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you're out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes, that's one thing, if you're in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom it's a different thing."
Roger Dow, president and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, responded to Biden's comments by saying, "Americans should heed the advice of medical experts when determining how best to manage health concerns during the ongoing swine flu outbreak.
In a written statement, he noted that the CDC "and countless other experts, swine flu should not discourage people from traveling to or within the United States."
"Elected officials must strike a delicate balance of accurately and adequately informing citizens of health concerns without unduly discouraging travel and other important economic activity," he said.
The Travel Association is a "political liaison" for the industry, and markets all modes of travel.
Not long after the "Today Show" aired, Biden released a statement through his spokeswoman, Elizabeth Alexander.
"The advice he is giving family members is the same advice the administration is giving to all Americans: that they should avoid unnecessary air travel to and from Mexico."
"If they are sick, they should avoid airplanes and other confined public spaces, such as subways. This is the advice the vice president has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week."
The statement also refers to advice President Barack Obama gave to Americans Wednesday night.
He said they should take the same steps to avoid the disease that one would take to prevent any other flu: keep hands washed, cover your mouth when you cough, stay home from work if you're sick, and keep sick children home from school.
UPDATED: 11:56 a.m.
– CNN's Jeanne Meserve contributed to this report.
I agree with what Joe Biden said. We need to take precautions.
What I cannot stand is when people in government tell everyone "If you are sick, stay home." If employers were sympathetic it would work. But average people can't risk losing their pay and/or losing their jobs out here in the real world.
Joe Biden was asked what would he say to "HIS" family? I totaly agree with him and for the News media and other Americans to make such a big deal over NOTHING is crazy. Most be Republicians acting their usual dumb selves.
Once again Biden was let out and has to do damage control.
Joe is showing the concern a husband and father shows for his family. Really, what did he say that was so wrong? Until more is learned about this virus it is probably a good idea to avoid going t Mexico. If you live in an area where the virus has shown up, what's wrong with avoiding crowded places etc.? Currently I think the whole thing is being hyped but being careful isn't a bad thing.
I love you Joe, but you are wrong about major U.S. airplanes. If someone in your immediate area sneezed, you may be at risk. The airplanes' air is circulated from top to down (and not cockpit to back of plane) and goes through a filter before entering the cabin. (I read this on CNN news this morning, plus my flight attendant dtr agrees). Other confined spaces I'm not so sure about.
this seems very benign and the result of some public health official wanting to get his 15 minutes. spare me the pissing contest, everyone knows the CDC guidelines as reported are what we should be following, and that common sense measures to limit potential exposures are also part of the story (AKA stay away from lots of people in close areas b/c every person you contact increases your potential risk of exposure...duh!). i fully expected something ignorant and possibly racist to be causing this tempest in a teapot: if he had said :"Don't touch the Mexicans" I would have understood this manufactured uproar. Shame on you CNN, trying to be over the top and alarmist like FOX again.
Reading the headlines, I fully expected Biden to have said something perfectly stupid, as he usually does. Reading the story and his quotes, I'd have to say no such gaffe occurred. I'm right with Joe Biden on this one. Too little was done by the Mexican authorities until the problem was glaring and too little is being done in areas experiencing the swine flu in this country. In recognition of that, the exercise of a little personal responsibility is in order and that's just what Biden is doing for his family. Give Joe an A+ on this non-gaffe.