Doctors baffled by backpacker's virus

Adelina Campos

MEDICS remain unsure about the nature of the deadly virus which caused an Irish backpacker to suffer a stroke and lose her speech for months.

Karen Hamill (27), from Tallaght, Dublin, was on her way back home from New Zealand via Vietnam last October when she was struck down with an unknown type of encephalitis that attacked her brain and put her life in jeopardy.


The HSE arranged for Karen to be flown back home once her condition had stabilised last week, and she was immediately transferred to a Dublin hospital on December 27 where doctors have been running tests to identify the disease.

Leading Irish and foreign experts have failed to recognise her condition so far and remain baffled by this new virus strain.

While Karen has regained her ability to speak, consultants are unable to confirm any damage that the virus may have done to her brain, or how long recovery may take. "Doctors have carried out extensive testing since Karen's returned and there is still some more to do as they're determined to find out what this virus is," Karen's aunt, Dorothy Ng told the Herald.


"She is doing well, she is no longer in intensive care, she's in a room on her own and a new regime will be put in place for her at the end of this week to help her with different aspects of recovery -- physiotherapy, speech therapy and whatever else she needs. Her speech is not right yet, but she's doing well considering that she wasn't speaking at all for two months."

While she received treatment in Ho Chi Minh's Franco-Vietnamese Hospital, the former recruitment consultant had expressed herself by blinking.

Her boyfriend Gerard O'Connor (27) who had been travelling with her, and parents Marie and Tommy, who flew over to be by her bedside, were eventually able to lip-read her requests.