Take steps to protect your health when visiting Japan for the Rugby World Cup

With the ICC Cricket World Cup behind us, sporting fans will now be looking forward to the Rugby World Cup in Japan, which kicks off on 20 September 2019.

Tuesday, July 23 2019

Dr Pete Vincent of the Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross Tokai, says the clinics have been receiving enquiries from a number of fans who intend travelling to Japan, asking what kinds of vaccinations they need and how they can best protect their health, so that they can enjoy this event of a lifetime to the fullest.

“There is a misconception among some fans that because they are travelling to Japan they will require the vaccine against mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis [JE]. This vaccine is not a requirement and is not considered necessary by health authorities, but we do advise taking some other important measures to protect one’s health when visiting Japan,” notes Dr Vincent.

He says the Japanese are fastidious about health and hygiene and the country is not considered a particularly risky destination when it comes to health. In addition, the period between September and October is an ideal time to visit, as the climate tends to be temperate and pleasant at that time of the year.

“Nevertheless, with occasions of this nature, where large numbers of people congregate together, there is always a risk of the spread of infections. It should also be noted that a rubella (German measles) outbreak has been reported in Japan recently, so it is a good idea to ensure that one takes measures to protect against that, particularly so if you are a pregnant woman.

“Furthermore, many fans will travel to Japan from Europe and North America, where there have been measles outbreaks recently. The MMR [measles, mumps and rubella] vaccination or vaccination booster is therefore strongly advised,” he added.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in the United States has recommended that pregnant women who are not protected against rubella through either vaccination or previous rubella infection should avoid travelling to Japan during this outbreak, especially if they are in their first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

“Complications from measles can be dangerous for both children and adults. The measles virus can remain active for some two hours outside of the human body in sneeze droplets and on surfaces, which makes it highly contagious. It is also always a good idea to be up to date with the tetanus vaccination, which provides protection for 10 years.”

According to Dr Vincent, people with chronic conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, should take additional measures to protect their health while on such an extended trip.

“Individuals who are being managed for chronic diseases should ensure that they have a sufficient supply of medicines for their trip. We also recommend that they take an official prescription from their doctor with them in case there are any queries from travel authorities about the medicines with which they are travelling.”

“Keep in mind that some travellers, and particularly those with cardiovascular or blood clotting disorders, may be at risk of developing problems such as a thrombosis, or blood clot, in the limbs during long flights, such as from South Africa to Japan. They may benefit from taking certain precautions such as wearing high quality compression stockings during the flight.”

Dr Vincent strongly recommends that individuals who intend travelling to Japan visit their travel clinic or doctor ahead of their trip for a health assessment, appropriate vaccinations and relevant advice on staying healthy for the duration of the event and beyond.

“The greatest risk that most travellers are likely to face when attending such events is falling ill with a respiratory tract infection. Netcare Travel Clinics therefore advises travellers to have the current flu vaccination, as well as the pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, which assists in protecting against pneumonia,” notes Dr Vincent.

The Rugby World Cup will be hosted over 12 stadiums, from the island of Hokkaido in the north, to Kyushu island in the south west. Yokahama, the second largest city in Japan, will be hosting many of the major games including the opening match in which the Springboks will be taking on the All Blacks.

“While it may sound obvious, we all need to keep in mind that practising good hand hygiene and cough and sneeze etiquette can go a long way in preventing the spread of all kinds of infections. Hands should be washed regularly to help prevent the spread of germs from one person to another. One should always cover one’s mouth with your arm when coughing or sneezing and direct the cough away from other people,” he continues.

Dr Vincent says acute diarrhoea is another potentially debilitating illness that can be easily spread during such events and, while the Japanese are particularly careful with regard to food and other aspects of hygiene, it is something that rugby fans should watch out for. Diarrhoea can be avoided by being sure that you practice good personal and food hygiene.

“Other potentially dangerous infections that we can contract during our travels include meningitis and Hepatitis A and B. Vaccinations are available for all of the above-mentioned diseases, and should be considered by travellers.”

Asked why vaccinating against Japanese encephalitis was unnecessary, Dr Vincent explained that the risk for travellers contracting the condition is considered to be extremely low, less than one case per million travellers, and virtually non-existent if one does not travel to the rural agricultural rice-growing areas of the country.

“Obtaining the necessary vaccine protection and taking a few additional health precautions, could save you a lot of discomfort and help ensure that you have a thoroughly enjoyable 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan,” concludes Dr Vincent.


Issued by:           Martina Nicholson Associates (MNA) on behalf of Netcare Travel Clinics and Medicross
Contact:               Martina Nicholson, Graeme Swinney, Meggan Saville or Estene Lotriet-Vorster
Telephone:        (011) 469 3016
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