The Encephalitis Society took to the airwaves recently for a travel health campaign centred around the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

You may have seen or heard our interviews featuring British Lions legend John Bentley where he encouraged rugby union fans to seek appropriate advice well before travelling to East Asia in September and October.

The 2019 Rugby World Cup is a major sporting event, featuring national teams from the United Kingdom, mainland Europe, North and South America, Africa, and the Pacific Islands as well as the host nation.

As a result, more than 600,000 tickets are expected to held by international fans. Such events where huge numbers of people gather can place a strain on the resources of the hosts and can also contribute to the international spread of disease.

Dr Ava Easton, our Chief Executive, said: "The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend seeking advice from travel health professionals before travelling to a mass gathering like the Rugby World Cup, so we knew how important it was to share the message with the general public.

"Awareness around travel health is something we are putting more of our time and efforts into in order to prevent certain types of encephalitis caused by measles, rabies, ticks (e.g. tick-borne encephalitis) and mosquitoes (e.g. Japanese encephalitis). So to have reached almost 10 million people with this campaign is fantastic.

"Hopefully, we have encouraged many rugby fans heading out to Japan to get the advice they need from health experts."

Rugby legend John Bentley, who starred for England and the British Lions

Our travel health campaign was supported by John Bentley, who represented England and the British Lions, and Dr Rochelle Smith, an encephalitis survivor and former England and Jamaica women’s rugby star. Rochelle is currently working as a hospital doctor in Jamaica and flew back to the UK to support our radio and television campaign.

Ava added: "We were very lucky to have two fantastic supporters in Rochelle and John who brought a lot expertise and personality to the table. 

"The rugby community, like the game itself, is always about supporting your team mates and I feel now that we have two new valuable members of our team."