Thursday morning Vice-President Joe Biden said on NBC’s Today Show, “I wouldn’t go anywhere in confined places now. It’s not that it’s going to Mexico, it’s [that] you’re in a confined aircraft; when one person sneezes it goes all the way through the aircraft. . .If you’re out in the middle of a field and someone sneezes that’s one thing. If you’re in a closed aircraft. . .it’s a different thing.”
Thank you Joe.
Unfortunately, we all know he’s right. Then again, the same could be said for riding in an elevator.
However, knowing that being in a small confined space with recirculated air for hours is probably not the best place in the world to be if someone in that space has something contagious is not what the airline industry needs to have said by a top government official on television. Not right now.
The Air Transport Association immediately blasted the comments, with CEO Jim May expressing “extreme disappointment at your suggestion that people should avoid air travel.”
The rest of the day, and even this morning, the fallout continued, with other government officials stepping up in an attempt to mitigate the damage, as did Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood late yesterday. LaHood said in a speech that “flying is safe and flying is healthy, and flying to Mexico is safe.”
Meanwhile, this morning the World Health Organization said that it was not recommending travel restrictions related to the outbreak of the virus. “Limiting travel and imposing travel restrictions would have very little effect on stopping the virus from spreading, but would be highly disruptive to the global community,” WHO said in a statement.
One of the reasons behind this statement? The lessons learned from the hysteria surrounding the SARS encounter. As WHO said in its statement, “Furthermore, although identifying the signs and symptoms of influenza in travellers can be an effective monitoring technique, it is not effective in reducing the spread of influenza as the virus can be transmitted from person to person before the onset of symptoms. Scientific research based on mathematical modelling indicates that restricting travel will be of limited or no benefit in stopping the spread of disease. Historical records of previous influenza pandemics, as well as experience with SARS, have validated this point.”