April 30th, 2009
02:19 PM ET
13 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. Really

    Breaking news... soon 400 people worldwide will be affected. I remember a similar thing going around my sons school. I think 10 or 15 kids were out with pink eye at one time.

    April 30, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  2. Matt

    It's hard to close the border when swine flu is AIRBORNE!!!!! If a Mexican sneezes across the border he could infect the American standing on the other side!!!

    April 30, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  3. stat

    I don't like Biden's suggestion but have to say he was right (at least statistically, chance is much higher in a confined area than in a ventilated one). But as a politician, he shouldn't say that to the public. What he said will only panic people.

    April 30, 2009 11:39 am at 11:39 am |
  4. Ray Fisher

    Swine flu is like getting pregnant, it may happen so we might as well enjoy the warm-up!!!

    April 30, 2009 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
  5. Anonymous

    Who is Biden to give health advice? He has not received any training in healthcare. Did he stay at a Holiday Inn Express?

    April 30, 2009 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. MJB, WI

    I have a child in daycare...trust me I am well aware of how contagious a virus can be. We MUST keep this in persepctive. Thousands die from the flu each year. The unfortunate thing with this strain is that we don't have a vaccine that can combat this particular strain or help alleviate it's impact. If it goes dormant and reappears later it may mutate and become more powerful. It is common sense to wash your hands, stay away from sick people and definitely stay away from crowds or confined spaces with lots of people. If you have ever been to church...just sit and listen sometime at how many coughs, hacks, sneezes you hear...it will amaze you. We must practice the same good hygiene we normally would to prevent ourselves from becoming sick. I really don't think we should be alarmed.

    April 30, 2009 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  7. Czeslaw

    Now more about the Closing Borders. Yes I agree the borders should be closed temporarily. With seriousness of the Flue like H1N1 I do think Mr. Biden should reflect on the comments more. It is not about the Illegal Immigrants only it is about spreading the Flu, by transporting across the border. If he thinks that we should stop flying to the MEXICO he should think what he said about closing the border. I think he contradict himself here. If you eve watch the CNN reports from the border? Can you see the people touching the metal gates that they are crossing? The crossing border migration is forced to touch the gates. So there is the most dangerous way of spreading the Flu Virus. The mask they getting are not near good enough to preventing from spreading, but they are good for time being. N95 is the most effected mask you can buy without prescriptions. Cost about $5.00 for two masks. With the Tamiflu drugs is getting really worst day by day. I live in not so small town of Huntington Beach. I called 20 Pharmacies yesterday to find out if they have a Tamiflu not one had it. I called again today no success.

    California is in need more then another states besides borders states.

    April 30, 2009 11:50 am at 11:50 am |
  8. Foreign observer

    Look at it as being a regular flu an so all what you´ve considered when flu spread in the past is also the right behaviour for today. Biden is right.

    April 30, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  9. Darla (Edmonton, Canada)

    Making personal preventative choices to reduce the risk of infection just makes sense. If each of us makes preventative choices then we take care of the person standing next to us on the bus or subway. An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of the cure.

    April 30, 2009 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. Tim

    Hmm, you deleted my comment again. Your headline is completely misleading. Biden didn't warn against unnecessary travel, he warned against all travel.

    Keep up the good work.

    April 30, 2009 11:54 am at 11:54 am |
  11. rodlang

    Don't ride the subway...how the hell are people supposed to get to work? And I guess that means don't ride Amtrak, Joe. PANIC!

    April 30, 2009 12:02 pm at 12:02 pm |
  12. Nikki Dai

    Didn't you guys just give him a solid B yesterday? Now he's back to the gaffes? Biden didn't do anything wrong here.

    April 30, 2009 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  13. Rick CT

    Someone should just put tape over his mouth. That way he won't transmit hoof-in-mouth disease. First Biden warns against planes, subways, etc. Later he backtracks, saying he's discussing travel to Mexico. Anyone know of any subways to Mexico?

    Some day someone ought to tell Joe that he's the Vice-President of the United States. Anything he publicly says and does goes beyond "personal" advice. That's just part of the territory.

    April 30, 2009 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  14. skyhawkdriver

    Once again the vice knucklehead opens mouth and inserts foot..and how many people died in car accidents yesterday??..it's the flu people..that's all..get over it..THE SKY IS FALLING!!!!..joe biden will destroy buisness any way he can..this week it's the transportation industry..what next joe??

    April 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  15. P from CA

    This is just the media jumping on Biden. Geeze he really didn't say anything that anyone didn't know or think. The media needs to return to journalism and stop trying to "make news."

    April 30, 2009 12:11 pm at 12:11 pm |
  16. Buckwheat19

    Well Joe, thanks for that great insight. And we wonder why our country is going down the toilet............

    April 30, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  17. Disillusioned

    If theSwine flu isn't gone by the wintertime, things could get bad. This is not something to play with.
    I like Joe, I wish he was in charge,

    April 30, 2009 12:14 pm at 12:14 pm |
  18. Dave

    But the problem is our fellow idiotic Americans that will go anyway. There is a dimwit here at my work that says she doesn't care and she's still going. How stupid and arrogant is this?
    Also tired of mainstream media's scare tactics and not reporting that this strain is impossible to have happend naturally but is, in fact, synthetic.

    April 30, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  19. Trish

    I can see from the comments that people are not taking this virus seriously. I guess they only fear being inconvenienced from the warnings and precautionary measures. This virus has a very real potential of becoming a pandemic and I can only hope that they will do what is necessary to control the spread.

    April 30, 2009 12:18 pm at 12:18 pm |
  20. Old white lady in Birmingham, AL

    What's the big deal, I wouldn't fly now either or go to Mexico.

    April 30, 2009 12:20 pm at 12:20 pm |
  21. closet republican

    Call me a conspiracy theorist but I'm under the assumption that this disease was not an accident and will eventually lead to it being required for our borders to be closed to Mexico....think.... illegal immigrants, drug cartels, etc....

    April 30, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  22. Jango

    Does he know obama's ill. Obama looked sicked yesterday, to much make up. Biden knows the truth.

    April 30, 2009 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  23. AJ

    If this whole thing seems overblown, it may well be. However, we have the media to blame for that, not public officials. Ultimately, though, I'm not sure it's such a bad thing. First, people need to realize that the H1N1 "swine flu" is much more virulent than influenza A or B, which we deal with each year. So, while there are overall many more deaths with the "regular" influenza, if "swine flu" were left to spread unchecked (such as "regular" influenza is) we would have many more deaths on our hands.

    So, while it may seem overblown relative to the number of cases we've seen, perhaps the reason we're seeing so few cases is that the whole thing is all over the news and people are taking precautions that they surely wouldn't take with regular influenza.

    As for closing the border to Mexico, everyone who is in favor of that just doesn't understand a thing about how viral illness spreads. There were American school children who've come back from field trips from Mexico who've brought the illness back with them. Would you suggest that we should've held them in Mexico? How about other American travellers to Mexico or other countries where the infection has already spread?

    The virus does not discriminate based on race, even if many of us continue to.

    April 30, 2009 12:22 pm at 12:22 pm |
  24. RWE

    joe is the second most powerful person in the country. his words mean things and this is another stupid comment that is easily excused by liberals.

    go and test the air quality on an airplane, it is as clean as a hospital's air.

    as someone in the airplane selling business, joe be quiet and stop hurting my livelyhood.

    April 30, 2009 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  25. Mitchell from MS

    So instead of doing the smart thing aka CLOSE THE BOARDER WITH MEXICO this dolt would rather avoid planes, trains, and automobiles.

    The elections in 2010 can not come fast enough!

    April 30, 2009 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
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