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. Christopher

    Those calling for the borders to close just wanted the borders closed all along and will jump on any excuse.

    It's comparable to Egypt ordering all the pigs in the country to be slaughtered. That country is primarily muslim and wants the pigs dead even though there are no cases of the flu reported in that country and no evidence that pig/human contact is even a great risk. They want the pigs dead because they do not like the non-muslims who eat pork so they seize the moment to enact bigoted laws.

    Closing the border will not contain the spread of the flu, so to order it closed you must have another motivation. I live in Texas. We have a lot of illegal immigration. I'm not happy about it, but I'm also opposed to government action for unfounded and racist reasons.

    April 30, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  2. steve

    The problem isn't what he said on the Today Show. It's the lie that was issued afterwards, trying to tell us he said something completely different than what we all heard.

    April 30, 2009 11:13 am at 11:13 am |
  3. Bob Parden

    I think Joe is being honest–that's refreshing.

    April 30, 2009 11:14 am at 11:14 am |
  4. JJ

    I have a friend living in Veracruz attending college at the moment. I had asked him what the swine flu was all about, and all he said was "huh?" I later explained that the US is making quite a big deal about it. He just laughed and explained that it's not even something big to be alarmed about because it's just like any other common influenza. Just follow some common sense practices like wash your hands, try and avoid the malls or crowded places, and if you're sick then treat it properly and stay at home. Not a big deal really. Just common sense.

    April 30, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  5. Brian

    This is flu is no worse than any of the other 6-7 flu strands. The only difference is that this one is new. approximately 35,000 people/year die from the flu. Why wasn't there any concern until now? Because it came from Mexico?

    The current administration wants to open the borders (not now but in general) and decrease penalties for illegals...this is what happens.

    Where are the medical health professionals when it comes to commentary? Why is Biden speaking? And lastly, with the current state of the airline industry, why would he suggest against air travel? Omartoure (above) is absolutely correct...far more people use subways and buses than planes. Biden may as well have set our terror level to red and said we're all going to be subject to attack.

    April 30, 2009 11:15 am at 11:15 am |
  6. Jeffrey

    I'm missing something here, hmmmmm
    154 cases world wide? With over 6 billion people.
    Where's the national emergancy?

    91 cases in the US and no deaths?

    Look at the living conditions in Mexico compared to US then give me a call when things get bad here.

    Should I put Duct tape and plastic over my windows like the last time the Goverment started this warning crap....Which color are we at now? Threat level fuschia?

    People seem to forget the conditions that were common back when the last epidemic outbreak happened as well as confined soldiers on a ship tend to pass germs back and forth.

    Tubulosis is much worse and more cases about the world but no ones jumping through hoops for that disease, making news or better yet making money off of pharmsuticals.

    Jeff A

    April 30, 2009 11:16 am at 11:16 am |
  7. susie

    Biden made a silly mistake. Let's move on.

    April 30, 2009 11:19 am at 11:19 am |
  8. Greg Pottstown, Pa.

    I think Its funny that no one is calling this what it is, a national security issue. By not enforcing the border we were left exposed to this virus. It could have been any biological weapon. This is not just Obama's fault to be fair bush also did not get this job done nor did Clinton. But it is funny that this happened just days after Obama's DHS head said that Mexico is no bigger threat than Canada.

    April 30, 2009 11:22 am at 11:22 am |
  9. common sense

    How can this be a gaffe ? I don't get it.

    April 30, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  10. Jim B. Smith

    I cannot believe how stupid some people are,in this country, making some of the above statements!!! The American people just can't handle the truth, when they see or hear it. Joe Biden told it like it really is!!!! Not what a bunch of liberal idiots want to hear. Geez, I hope we don't continue down this road,with attempted brainwashing, and end up acting like a bunch of robots, as some writers have accurately predicted. THINK PEOPLE!!!!! Think for your self! Use your common sense, if u have any. Don't kill the messenger, who tells the truth,even if his boss doesn't like what he says. LOL LOL LOL. Jim Hsv Ala

    April 30, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  11. Sue from California

    There is no way we can reasonably close that long border with Mexico. Obama was right. It would be like closing the door after the horses got out. Biden is right also. If you can avoid being in situations where you are in a closed atmosphere, you should do so. It is wonderful to have honesty in the current administration.

    April 30, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  12. Dan in Utah

    Obama is an incompetent fool for not closing the border right away. Biden gets it but is trying to toe the party line.

    April 30, 2009 11:24 am at 11:24 am |
  13. Thang Viet Le

    Thank for Biden's advise for avoiding "unnecessary" air travel to Mexico because of swine flu risks.
    But last year 36,000 people died in the US from the Flu. So about 100 people died in one day. The percentage is bigger than Swine flu dead. I dont worry about that. Next month, I have a trip to US for long time.

    April 30, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  14. drea

    A tip for Joe Biden: Open mouth, Insert foot.

    April 30, 2009 11:25 am at 11:25 am |
  15. jwd

    Biden warns against 'unnecessary' air travel

    That is not what he said. He said that he would tell his family to avoid air travel or travel on any confined spaces. He specifically said this is not a Mexico thing and that people should avoid being in confined spaces. These guys lie and spin with absolute disregard for what their words do and it makes me sick.

    April 30, 2009 11:26 am at 11:26 am |
  16. Dick

    Joe is correct, he's just not POLITICALLY correct. Joe didn't say anything that the CDC isn't saying. He's just not sugar coating it. If you don't like the answer to a question, don't ask it.

    April 30, 2009 11:28 am at 11:28 am |
  17. Karen

    Joe Biden didn't say others shouldn't go into enclosed areas, he stated that's what he would /has told his own family. Basically, it is up to the individual and their family to decide how they wish to deal with this. i thought he was very clear when he chose to use the words "for me". Absolutely nothing wrong with that.

    April 30, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  18. Barry

    236 confirmed case in the WORLD!!
    that's 0.000003% of the population. Overblown???

    April 30, 2009 11:30 am at 11:30 am |
  19. NewGTGuy

    Fear is a powerful tool.

    April 30, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  20. bern

    Poor Joe. I like the man but he could mess up a romantic dream.

    Now unfortunately he is very close to right ........ whether talking travel to Mexico or to China or London or around the corner. Still it seems that his mouth often outraces his brain when he talks. Another reason to pray for the Presidents safety and good health.

    April 30, 2009 11:34 am at 11:34 am |
  21. 21% of Americans are TRAITORS for wanting America to FAIL and 79% of Americans to SUFFER!

    I was watching Morning Joe when they jumped on this. I did not see the point then and I do not see the point now.

    The things Vice President Biden said are only common sense. Confined spaces are more apt to infect others, IF someone ill is on the plane, train or cruise ship!

    If you do not need to be on one of those modes of transportation then I agree it would be best to stay away, but it is also prudent at this time to stay away for mass crowds, which would also be encountered in these situations.

    What is the hoopla about?

    April 30, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  22. TamsToy

    This flu is no different than any other flu. Mention a pandemic and panic! Remember the Avian flu several years ago, panic! If you are feeling ill, call your doctor's office first. Since this is the only strain of flu out there at the moment, more than likely you have the flu. This flu is no different than any other flu except that the media, once again, is taking it to the extreme.

    April 30, 2009 11:36 am at 11:36 am |
  23. Ron In California

    Does anybody remember the Bird flu??? It was thought to be a pandemic and was forgotten in a month.

    April 30, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  24. J.P.

    "Biden warns against 'unnecessary' air travel"

    cough cough (air force one debacle) cough cough

    April 30, 2009 11:37 am at 11:37 am |
  25. steve

    Just another example of the Obama Administration not knowing what one hand is doing. Do not drink the cool aid!

    April 30, 2009 11:38 am at 11:38 am |
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