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. Fair is Fair

    Let's see... swine flu during an unprecedented plethora of pork projects.

    Coincidence? I think not...

    April 30, 2009 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  2. Anonymous

    And how many other infectious people are going to be coming into the border between now and in the next year?? A lot im sure. Which isnt going to help us any.

    April 30, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  3. Marilyn

    Joe is correct. Staying away from crowds and out of confined spaces is just common sense. However, continuing to allow millions of Mexicans to flood into this country illegally with whatever diseases they may have just shows a complete lack of common sense on the part of our government officials.

    Close the borders already!!! Last year it was salmonella from Mexican peppers, this year it is swine flu. What will be next?

    April 30, 2009 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  4. LIP

    Chicken Little (Joe Biden) said "the sky is falling", oh woe is me.
    Last year 36,000 people died in the US from the Flu. Not this flu, but a flu strain that the current vaccine had little effect on. So what's the big deal...we have one death so far and it is almost May.
    Obama made some common sense suggestions as to how to deal with the problem, but did not go as far as Chicken Little (Joe Biden).
    Our economy cannot afford to crawl into a hole and pull the door shut and Chicken Little should keep his beak shut.

    April 30, 2009 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  5. BILL, WI

    The sky is falling, the sky is falling. Just last year 36,000 people died from the seasonal flu. And the rate of deaths is greater with the seasonal flu, than what the rate is with the new swine flu.

    April 30, 2009 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  6. david

    I am so disgusted by Janet and Obama are downplaying this pandemic. If the WHO is raising the level to 5. They are on to something. Joe Biden is a gaffe machine but this time he is a honest and caring family man! He is giving wonderful advice to his children and we need to REAP those benefits. Listen wake up America. This is much more than some close barn analogy.(whats with the press last night? are we in some fan club? snap out of it. Do your job and pls no enchanted questions. Push these leaders to close the BORDERS. I am so sick of govt not protecting the American people! CLOSE THE BORDERS right NOW. This is not a political thing its a HUMAN thing. Thanks GOD for Joe Biden telling the truth. I was in a subway in NYC last night. I was on alert and so were many people.

    if we were in Europe they would close the borders. Even they are telling their people to stay from the US. Duh... why are we the last to know anything. WHY?? MONEY OVER AMERICANS LIVES.

    sorry. i voted for Obama but I'm not into being sick with a laboratory flu gone wild.

    April 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  7. Jennifer

    I'm cracking up. What it amounts to is this, Biden made a comment that His Highness Obama didn't agree with and His Highness made him retract it. How many times is this going to happen before people wake up and see what's really going on.

    This administration has the hardest time keeping their stories straight. Maybe they need to prep Biden before they send him on air so he can keep the "party line" straight. Just goes to show exactly how disorganized and how much of a joke this administration really is.

    April 30, 2009 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  8. Sandy

    Border needs to be closed not for the swine flu virus but to stop the flow of the drugs and the illegals. Drugs and the illegals taking jobs from American citizens are doing more harm then the swine flu possibly can.

    April 30, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  9. gbny

    What suggestion does our rocket scientist foot-in-his-mouth VP have for the millions of new yorkers taking buses and subway everyday? To take a limo, maybe?


    April 30, 2009 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  10. jim Cal

    The Pres and V.P. and Congress know all about "pork". Just look at the budget. What was said last night. "what the sense of closing the border the "pig " has allready left the barn" Oh so let's just let the whole herd out. You know what he said 120 days ago, " you could put lipstick on a swine flu, but it's still swine flu"

    April 30, 2009 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  11. Indoor Air Quality

    Actually, scientific studies show that in a plane, the flow of the air is from top to bottom and a sneeze or cough only reaches about 3-4 rows in front. The air is cleaned very well with HEPA filters. Really, the danger zone is 3-4 rows in front or back. But it's not like Biden is the smartest kid in the class anyway.

    April 30, 2009 10:52 am at 10:52 am |
  12. Lars

    I firmly believe that on the Today Show Matt asked the right questions and BIDEN....well, lets just say He just doesn't get it. The way he grins over such a GRAVE Situation just gets under my skin.

    April 30, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  13. IA Voter

    Wonder just how bad this epidemic really is. Surely, more people have died from infuenza every year. We chalk it up as just something that happens. Now, we have a resurrection of a strain that first appeared 33 years ago (yes, I got my shot due to all the freaking out back then too) & now, it's Chicken Little to the rescue. Typical of our 24hr news networks trying to drum up a little viewership to sell rating share numbers to advertisers, I think......

    April 30, 2009 10:53 am at 10:53 am |
  14. jan gerrard

    I think joe biden had it right on, if you're really concerned about getting the H1N1 virus, stay out of confined spaces with a bunch of strangers. what? the vp can't have an opinion? He is a smart guy listen up dummies.

    April 30, 2009 10:58 am at 10:58 am |
  15. Tulsa L

    He is right to give his opinion.......he is right to give his family advice to stay off planes, what's wrong with him telling the truth? CNN played it off as giving bad adivice....any thing people can do to stop the spread of this flu should be taken.........so stop making a big deal out of his remarks.......

    April 30, 2009 10:59 am at 10:59 am |
  16. Matt

    Its a gaffe because Biden is saying don't travel by air plane ANYWHERE he said, not only Mexico. Basically, he suggests people should not travel by airplane or bus or subway or ANYWHERE confined. This is being alarmist. This is going to hurt the economy, because people are getting scared. Sure, you should take precautions, but 500,000 people die globally every year from human flu, and in America 75,000 people die from diseases. Globally, the swine flu has killed less than 200 people so far. Not a reason to suggest voluntarily closing borders, canceling plans other than to mexico, other common sense things

    April 30, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  17. obama/mama

    I think Biden is absolutely right. This issue should not be taken lightly

    April 30, 2009 11:01 am at 11:01 am |
  18. Marc from Tulsa

    Sandy who thinks we should close our border because of illegals and drugs...I'm pretty sure our border is closed for those things, I don't think the illegals or drug cartels care much, closed/open illegals and drugs will still get in. this virus has made it to New Zealand people so changing your vacation plans to go to Aruba instead or stay in the US instead is just retarded. Not getting on planes, buses, metros, taxis etc is stupid too..where ya goin? cudnt the virus just as easily be at your destination regardless of your mode of transportation? I work for a major US airline, lets not tank our economy over fears of getting sick...Dont alot of americans get "flu like symptoms" in Mexico anyway? Montezuma's Revenge..Get over it people, get over it Press. find a new story like the 2 wars, the economy, healthcare, education...And like Peter Tosh said..."LEGALIZE IT!"

    April 30, 2009 11:02 am at 11:02 am |
  19. Ken

    I don't agree with Biden when he says not to close our border with Mexico!

    The "Swine Flu" is not the only bad thing that we have gotten from Mexico. We are becoming a "Third World Country" because with have let stay some 12 to 20 million ILLEGAL ALIENS!

    Biden needs to get on his train and leave Washington DC.

    April 30, 2009 11:03 am at 11:03 am |
  20. Qui-Tam Relator

    The world knows that Mexico is a third world country and yet we American's allow open borders to anyone heading north with a variety of diseases T.B. Swine Flu and the list goes on. This should be a wakeup call to our elected officials to monitor and control the influx of illegal immigrant streaming accross our borders with infectious diseases, drugs, undocumented workers, child prostitution, and the list goes on and on. Our People and Our Representatives need to WAKE UP! Slavery never died in this country in just changed colors. Just ask the rich folk's and the construction companies in Southern California ! ****************************************************************

    April 30, 2009 11:08 am at 11:08 am |
  21. Sarah

    I agree with Vice President Joe 100 % . He knows about swine flu outbreak is dangerous and spreading disease to other states plus people and old people it s risk and dead healthy . people are innocent Joe said, stay away from swine flu outbreak to travel . it s better to block border in mexico . Joe s right to know about this serious situation healthy. I know Mexico have never never clean up and care about the pigs and people . Mexico is very dirty anywhere expect Govt mexico didnt check or illegal (FDA) . they should know better about the nature people, health , animals and environment etc.

    April 30, 2009 11:09 am at 11:09 am |
  22. thomas

    The reason they are dieing in Mexico like they are and not in U.S. Dah, think about it, They aren,t as healthy as us for one reason, the other is the can,t even go to the hospital right now because that,s were all the sick people are and they don,t want anymore than they have now. And once people start dropping in the street,s over there watch what happen,s at are so-called beefed up Border with a couple of million coming over it at the same time.

    April 30, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  23. Dena

    We are so concerned about being politically correct and not upsetting Mexico that we are going to continue to let them stream over the border putting American lives in the crapper. Sitting down here in South Texas with kids who can't go anywhere or do anything. School is closed down. Extra-curricular activities postponed and possibly cancelled. Kids are losing scholarship opportunities. But we can't close the border. Saying there is no point because the horses are all out of the barn is just stupid. All the horses aren't out of the barn. Sick people continue to stream across the border, then run to our hospitals for free medical care. In the meantime, I couldn't get into an ER if my life depended on it. Tell you what Obama/Biden, why don't you come stay for an extended period in South Texas and see how you feel then.

    April 30, 2009 11:10 am at 11:10 am |
  24. Cecile Williamson

    Thank God there are still honest people in government who care more about their family than about being politically correct. Joe Biden told it like it is. What he said is common sense. I have great respect for his candor. I plan to give the same advice to my family members.

    April 30, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
  25. Barrack

    Yes, lets close the borders and cause an even worse economic meltdown from a disease that isn't spreading fast that so far isn't even close to the fatality rate of the normal every day flu. When will you far right nut jobs start using your brain and look at the facts before spouting off your hatred towards Obama. You lost, live with it and move on. Your party will cease to exist because of your close mindedness.

    April 30, 2009 11:11 am at 11:11 am |
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