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. Ese

    Uncle Joe the Biden at it again! I wonder what it would be like to have him at a thanksgiving dinner table after all that food and wine...

    April 30, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  2. Give me a break

    Let's stop analysing what he said. So he voiced his personal opinion. Should he have done it? maybe not but the fact remains that the important issue here id the Flu. I think we exaggerate the minor issues because we don't want to think about the real scary ones.

    April 30, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  3. Enlightened Voter

    Sounds like commen sense to me. What is wrong with that? Although I can see why it wouldn't make sense to the right wingers.

    April 30, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  4. David

    The issue is not that there are a couple hundred now and what is the issue, the issue is that computer predictive modeling shows this virus will blanket the planet fairly quickly. I would really like to hear a more clear description of what ths means in percentages. In that, if you get this flu, are you 40% likely to die. Is CDC able to determine this? How long does it take to make and distribute a vaccine? What if anything is standing in the way of having a vaccine more quickly? Can we determine more rapidly how this progress is going before we get to the same scenario we had with New Orleans with pointing fingers and such?

    April 30, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  5. AJ

    Oh, and one more thing, I think it's great that this not-so-widespread illness is getting the press and attention that it is. It helps us assess and tweak our preparedness, on an individual, local gov't, and national level, for those times when something far more sinister begins to spread. That could be bioterrorism, or – more commonly – a true natural pandemic.

    So, don't be so critical of the "overblown" nature of this deal. There are valuable lessons to be learned here folks. What measures would you be taking if your neighbor or your child's classmate were confirmed to have this virus today? Are your local govts and schools etc. prepared to handle something more serious? How would you ever know, if they didn't deal with this once in a while?

    The 0.000000003% takes on a whole new meaning when it's in your neighborhood.

    April 30, 2009 12:29 pm at 12:29 pm |
  6. Better Days

    The thing about Joe Biden is . . . he tells the truth.

    April 30, 2009 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  7. Perspective

    He is correct, but again as far removed from the public as all other people at that level. Do we really keep from doing our jobs and sending our kids to school? Don't get simple by mentioning stay home if your sick. An honest man with a unrealistic perspective.

    April 30, 2009 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  8. Kard

    And just why are people asking Joe Biden about anything?

    April 30, 2009 12:33 pm at 12:33 pm |
  9. beachgirl

    VERY SMART STATEMENT from Biden. I AGREE with him 100% In fact, my entire family is avoiding crowds and confined spaces.


    April 30, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  10. Alex

    Say it ain't so, Joe. Open mouth, insert foot.

    April 30, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  11. Christine

    He was only stating what he told his family. Until there is a better handle/understanding on incubation and spreading of this, I see nothing wrong with what he said to his family.

    Right now we have 17 probable cases in IL. 99% sure they have H1N1 but not yet confirmed by CDC. Yesterday morning there was only 1, last night only 9. Most people in the country are not aware of this not widely reported number. (It is on the Illinois Department of Public Health website for those that would like to confirm)

    I wonder how many other 'probable' cases there are in the country at the moment. Let the number increase like it has been in IL (double every day) how many people infected after just 3 weeks.... millions of people? Not such a small problem anymore is it?

    April 30, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  12. Lisa, Saugus MA

    Here in New England we used to have a saying "its just Manny being Manny". We can apply this same saying to Joe Biden. "Its just Biden being Biden".

    President Obama has gone out of his way to try and prevent panic and in just one appearance the VP has raised concerns to anyone booked on a plane.

    I am going on my vacation to FL at the end of May despite Joe Biden. I will wear a mask and buy hand sanitizier.

    Think before you speak Mr. VP since you may start an unwanted panic.

    April 30, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  13. Ted

    Joe Biden is correct. Deal with it, you hate mongers.

    Obama/Biden 2012

    April 30, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  14. babs

    Joe doesn't have to fly if he doesn't want to and he is free to tell his family anything he pleases. I'm missing the problem.

    April 30, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  15. demwit

    I like Biden, even I look smart next to him..

    April 30, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  16. Anna, Missouri

    So, are the airlines and subways putting filters in their air recirculating systems that will trap viruses? If not, then VP Biden's remarks are common sense that shows that he is more concerned about human beings than businesses.

    April 30, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  17. Danielle

    People are just mad because Joe Biden is telling the cold hard facts of the matter. The airlines and other businesses don't want people to stop going out,flying,eating out,going to school and work because then things will crumble financially at an already tough time economically. But the facts are that if your in a confined space with others,and someone sneezes or coughs,or is just coming down with swine flu then you are bottom line at risk of getting it too,and so is everyone else there,and whomever else you all come into contact with throughout your life. This is how things spread period! Joe told it like it is.

    April 30, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. John in Tampa

    What? My grandma offers common sense about keeping your health, and Joe Biden is sharing what his gramdma would have told him. If you don't want to listen, don't. Personally I like common sense, it is better than none at all.

    April 30, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  19. Ran Bar

    The question was "what would you tell your family" NOT what would you tell the people of the United States. As a family man, I would tell my family the exact same thing. People need to actually read the words and not skim over them and assume what it means. Get off Joe for being honest and not trying to make himself look good in front of right-wingers. About time we have a politician that is! Oh did I make this about politics? I'm sorry; I thought we were talking about what a person said what they didn’t say...

    April 30, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  20. jeff

    RWE i can't let your comment go by. "As clean as hospital's air?!?!?" YIKES!!!! The hospital is the LAST person any healthy person should ever want to be!!! Nosocomial infections? HELLO?!?!?! MCFLY?!?!?! I surely hope you are kidding.

    April 30, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  21. LaDonna

    Hey Joe. My office is really small.........kinda a confining space. Can I go home?

    April 30, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  22. Ob

    The guy is right... Given what is currently going on in Mexico, would you go there? Would you send your family there, to garner political support?

    H..no. Where is the gaffe? You reporters are priceless... end of story

    April 30, 2009 02:31 pm at 2:31 pm |
  23. Jefe

    Terrible...He was asked a question on his opinion of what he would do in a situation, and he answered it truthfully, repeatedly indicating that it was HIS opinion, and what he would do. And really, he's right, much to the dismay of the Transportation industry. I'm glad Joe doesn't feel the need to cowtow to corporations at every opportunity.

    April 30, 2009 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  24. Tanika

    This is so stupid to get all up in arms about what Joe Biden said. I guess the word PANDEMIC is not as scary as avoiding crowded places.

    April 30, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
  25. TyWebb

    Unbelievable. There was nothing wrong with what he said. He just chooses to say it vs. cloaking in euphemisms, etc.

    April 30, 2009 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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