"I would tell members of my family — and I have — that I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said on NBC's "The Today Show." "It's not just going into Mexico. If you're any place in a confined aircraft and one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft."
The rather alarmist warning prompted a U.S. health official to say that the outbreak in the country "is not really at that point."
Roger Dow, President and CEO of the U.S. Travel Association, released a statement soon after stating that "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 continued. "According to President Obama, swine flu is a cause for concern, but not panic. President Obama's measured and responsible comments are appropriate and should provide useful guidance to other elected officials."
And the Air Transport Association, the trade group for the airlines, sent a letter to the vice president expressing "extreme disappointment" in his remarks and saying that "no responsible officials or healthcare professionals have suggested that people avoid air travel."
Biden's office quickly put out the following clarification:
"On the Today Show this morning the Vice President was asked what he would tell a family member who was considering air travel to Mexico this week. 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."
Continued Biden Spokesperson Elizabeth Alexander: "This is the advice the Vice President has given family members who are traveling by commercial airline this week. As the president said just last night, every American should take the same steps you would take to prevent any other flu: keep your hands washed; cover your mouth when you cough; stay home from work if you're sick; and keep your children home from school if they're sick."
The vice president was not so alarmist this morning on CBS' The Early Show, where he reiterated President Obama's calls to avoid panic and take common sense approaches to minimize risk of infection.
"The best thing for us to do is for us to act as the president said now in a rational way," he said. "We're on top of this thing. We should be mitigating the prospects of it spreading. And the way to do that is to deal with all of the things that you know about as a mother: About having [children] wash their hands; you washing your hands; making sure that they're not in public places touching items that, in fact, have been touched by others, et cetera."