April 30th, 2009
02:19 PM ET
12 years ago

Biden's flu advice: Avoid 'confined places'

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.

Filed under: Joe Biden • Popular Posts • Swine Flu
soundoff (132 Responses)
  1. Moroni

    I heard that Biden made a gaffe with his comment, but I honestly have to agree with Biden. Enclosed spaces spread diseases much more effectively then open spaces. That's just reality.

    April 30, 2009 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  2. Had It

    They ask for his personal opinion and then make political statements about it. Come on - this admin. is being sliced and diced like no other EVER.

    Wish someone would have nit-picked Cheney/Bush. Maybe the country wouldn't be in such deep doo doo now.

    April 30, 2009 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  3. Chamorrita, MD

    VP Biden is RIGHT. Folks should use their basic common sense. If you can AVOID tight or confined spaces, then DO IT!!! Hello? What's NOT to understand here?

    Americans KNOW BETTER. They know if they child or someone in the family is not feeling well, KEEP THEIR BUTTS HOME!!! It only takes one sneeze, one cough and BAM, you've got the flu.

    VP Biden is NOT saying anything that folks don't already know, or SHOULD KNOW.

    But as usual, you have those idiots who will go to work or send their child to school KNOWING full well they are sick!! These folks should be slapped upside their heads!!!

    April 30, 2009 09:59 am at 9:59 am |
  4. Fair is Fair

    Joe knows all about diseases – he's always suffered from foot-in-mouth disease.

    Is there any way we can find a reason to make it necessary for HIM to travel to Mexico?

    April 30, 2009 10:00 am at 10:00 am |
  5. omartoure

    Biden is obvisously suffering from foot in mouth disease. After his boss tells the American public that there is no cause for alarm, Biden tells people that he woould not go on ANY airplane, or a SUBWAY for that matter. Mixed messages? Why isn't CNN all over this?

    April 30, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  6. Robin

    So good ole' Joe does not want his family traveling, but they still have not closed to borders.


    April 30, 2009 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  7. Bill

    Really........but don't do anything to stop people from coming into the US from Mexico...heck no...just let the infection keep pouring into the country....the argument that stopping people from coming into the US now is like closing the barn door after the horses get out, is totally idiotic. It is more like closing the door before ALL the horses are out or even better it is like saying that if you left the water running in the sink and it started to flow on to the floor, but don't turn the tap off...just let it keep running until the whole house is flooded.

    April 30, 2009 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  8. Joe

    Must be a busy job; the person who needs to clarify everything the VP says...

    April 30, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  9. J.Crobuzon

    Every time I cough, it makes an 'oink' sound. Do you think I should be worried?

    April 30, 2009 10:04 am at 10:04 am |
  10. Some Republican Guy

    I'm with the ones who say this virus is artificial. It was manufactured by the Obamabots and ACORN in their secret labratory and spread to make us live in fear. You watch, they're going to tell us next week that there is an oral vaccine but when you get to your doctors office it will be in the form of kool aid. If you drink it you will turn into an obamabot too!!! They're trying to trick us. Have a nice day.

    April 30, 2009 10:05 am at 10:05 am |
  11. Ray Fisher

    Everyone should get outdoors as much as possible just to sit in the sunshine because sunshine kills some viruses and provides much needed vitamins plus everyone should air out their homes frequently!!!

    April 30, 2009 10:08 am at 10:08 am |
  12. Francheska

    He is just speaking common sense. Planes recyle air, that means that you get to breathe the very smae air you and everyone around expelled a few hundred times while you are on a plane. Would that not cause a flu-like virus to spread. The vice-president was just saying what he would tell his own family and it is pretty good advice.

    April 30, 2009 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  13. Dawn

    VP Biden is actually correct; during the incubation period, do you know you are sick? No you do not, I had the flu back in 1999 and I did not know until I awoke one morning and getting ready for work, I was dressed and the next thing I knew i could not move, I felt achy and I was running a fever. So the flu hits you when you least expected.

    April 30, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  14. Dennis

    Get a grip! It's good advise!

    April 30, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  15. rand

    The timing of this outbreak makes me suspect. I am not trying to promote a conspiracy but for the last eight years something conveniently pops up to throw the scent off what's really going on. (torture and prosecution).

    I have to travel by airplane for work. Thanks for making me paranoid.

    April 30, 2009 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  16. John in Ohio

    This is considered a gaffe? Seriously?

    How many people are thinking, right now, "Boy, I really should travel to Mexico and spend a long period of time in an enclosed space with strangers"?

    Since when did telling the truth become a gaffe?

    April 30, 2009 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  17. Expat American

    Many people in these posts are quick to cast blame on 'Mexico' and 'Mexicans'....but how many fall-down-drunk, starved-for-attention obese 'Girls-Gone-Wild' types and their fans have made the trip back across the border as carriers of God knows what?

    Keep on blaming ‘the illegals’, Rep/Con racists.

    April 30, 2009 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  18. Proud DHS radical

    And in the mean time, how many thousands of infective illegals are entering this country everyday through our porous borders?

    For many there's no option to stay home if sick for it means losing much needed income.

    Ol Joe is right about not traveling among crowds in confined spaces but he may have just ticked off the major airlines and other mass transit systems.

    April 30, 2009 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  19. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    He's right whether you like him or not. My family members job is to fly all over the country as a flight attendant, mine isn't and I still fear she will bring the germ home. I need to do air travel due to a medical emergency in my family and I refuse to travel at this time.

    April 30, 2009 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  20. Erik in Real Pennsylvania

    The Vice-president is being an alarmist. The swine flu is no worse than any other influenza. The "regular" flu kills many hundreds of people every year. This is dumb.

    Take reasonable precautions and don't snuggle up to sick people. Wash your hands several times a day. If you get sick, go to the doctor. The risk of dying by automobile mishap is substantially higher than the risk of dying from the swine flu.

    April 30, 2009 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  21. Red

    YES! CLOSE THE BORDERS! Stop allowing American citizens to travel to other countries and bring back these diseases with them to infect us all!!!

    April 30, 2009 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  22. SLM

    And we needed Biden to tell us this?? We are truly a stupid nation if we couldn't figure this out on our own. mabye that's what is wrong with this country, we can no longer think for ourselves, we need the government to do that for us too.

    April 30, 2009 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  23. gl, Pittsburgh

    I love Biden becasue he is a honest man. He was asked his opinion and he gave them his opinion. I don't consider this a gaffe – just an opinion nothing else. I LOVE THE MAN SO LEAVE HIM ALONG.

    April 30, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  24. Lisa B

    Once again comments from Obama haters here prove they have no common sense. These are most likely the folks who put Bush in office....twice. VP Biden statements on the Today show were correct and very common sense advice. Traveling anywhere by plane, bus etc. or even being in large crowds increase the risk of getting any kind of illness. Anyone who has a holiday planned in Mexico right now should seriously consider cancelling at this time. And closing the border would do no good...the virus is already here. If we were to close the border, it should have been done weeks ago, but apparently there was a delay in the Mexican officials sharing the info about this virus in a timely manner with the WHO.

    Bottom line: Common sense people.

    April 30, 2009 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  25. Fitz in Texas

    Very good advice Mr. Biden regarding unnecessary air travel to Mexico. However, you failed to mention that people crossing the border from Mexico into the United States is dangerous travel to U.S. citizens . It's been reported that people crossing into the United States from Mexico is up 75% since this Swine Flu problem started, yet this administration does nothing to secure the border. Why not secure the border until we at least get this situation under control, if we can. It appears it's all about votes in 2010 and 2012. How very sad.

    April 30, 2009 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
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