Mystery illness involving rare parasite finally diagnosed seven years after Thailand holiday

Tess Swift

22nd January 2023 – (Ocean Grove) A young woman from Victoria who contracted a rare parasite on holiday in Thailand is urging travellers to learn from her experience.Tess Swift from Ocean Grove, south of Geelong, has suffered from chronic illness for more than seven years and warns it could happen to anyone. She started feeling ill soon after arriving home from the family trip.

“I started feeling not great a couple of weeks after we got back but … we put it down to being overseas eating different food,” she said.”Then about four weeks after we got back I woke up in the middle of the night with really severe abdominal pain and nausea.”Swift was admitted to emergency and had her appendix removed.

But the excruciating pain continued and the nausea has never stopped.”The nausea has been my biggest issue for the last seven and a half years,” she said.”I haven’t had a day where I’m not nauseous for the last seven and a half years, and again, we tried over 20 medications for nausea with not much success.”At her worst in 2019, Swift spent six and a half weeks in hospital.Doctors couldn’t work out what was wrong.”I’ve been in and out of hospital, being told all sorts of different things from ‘we think you have an eating disorder’ to ‘it’s just irritable bowel syndrome’, and a thousand other things in between.”

Tess Swift suffered from chronic illness for more than seven years after visiting Thailand and warns it could happen to anyone.

Her mother Virginia Dickson-Swift said it had been a “challenging” time.Finally the answer came after her specialist tested for rare parasites.It was gnathostomiasis, a bug that comes from eating undercooked or raw infected freshwater fish, birds, and reptiles.It’s particularly prevalent in Thailand.”It was the craziest thing ever,” Swift said.

Swift and her mum have decided to share their story to raise awareness.They say they don’t want anyone to go through what they’ve endured.”I feel like it stole seven years of my life,” Swift said.”I missed out on so much like social time in my 20s.”Dickson-Swift urged anybody with a health condition like her daughter to keep pushing for answers.”If you’ve got something that is a condition that’s a little bit different, you know, keep advocating for yourself, keep pushing,” she said.