Aussie woman’s mystery illness diagnosed 7 years after holiday to Thailand

An Australian woman spent more than seven years looking for answers about her mystery illness to find its cause was a parasite she contracted on holiday in Thailand.

Tess Swift, from Ocean Grove in Victoria, woke up in the middle of the night in excruciating abdominal pain and nausea a few weeks after she returned from Thailand.

Swift was admitted to the emergency room and doctors removed her appendix, but the pain and nausea persisted.

The young woman told 9news that nausea was the worst symptom…

“The nausea has been my biggest issue for the last seven and a half years.”

“I haven’t had a day where I’m not nauseous for the last seven and a half years.

“We tried over 20 medications for nausea with not much success.”

In 2019, Swift spent six months in hospital when her symptoms worsened.

Doctors misdiagnosed the problem several times – they told her she had an eating disorder or irritable bowel syndrome.

Seven years later, doctors decided to test Swift for rare parasites.

Doctors found that a parasite called gnathostomiasis – caused by eating undercooked or raw freshwater fish, eels, frogs, birds or reptiles – was causing hell for Swift.

The most common symptoms of gnathostomiasis are migratory swellings under the skin and increased levels of eosinophils in the blood.

“It was the craziest thing ever,” Swift said.

“I feel like it stole seven years of my life… I missed out on so much like social time in my 20s.”

Swift’s mother urges anyone with an undiagnosed illness to keep searching for answers, even when doctors start to give up…

“If you’ve got something that is a condition that’s a little bit different, you know, keep advocating for yourself, keep pushing.”

Swift didn’t reveal any details about how the seven-year-long parasitic infection was treated.

Last month, a South Korean man contracted a rare disease in Thailand known as “brain-eating amoeba” (Naegleria fowleri) and died upon his return to Korea.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.

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