Could Exotic Animals Be To Blame For Kentucky Woman's Mysterious Death? (updated)

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It's being called a medical mystery.

A central Kentucky woman is dead, just days after she started feeling sick.

Now her stepsister is also in a coma.

Friends say 22-year-old Ashley Foley died Monday night, at UK Hospital. Officials have confirmed it was the result of an infection.

But where that infection came from is still not known.

Now her stepsister is in a coma at Central Baptist Hospital with similar symptoms.

Doctors are baffled as to what exactly happened, but they're now looking at exotic animals as a possible cause of the infections.

One of the women owned 2 parakeets and a gerbil. Those animals have been euthanized, and are now being tested to see if they in fact caused both women to get sick.

Officials told 27 NEWSFIRST on Thursday that the autopsies on those animals didn't show any sign of infection, but more bloodwork is being done.

Late Wednesday night the Fayette County Coroner said he is now involved in the case.

Doctors at UK Hospital told Jessamine County officials they're looking into the possibility the illness can only be contracted through contact with the animials and not by human to human contact.

Latest From The Associated Press
Pets euthanized after woman's death, sister's illness

NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. (AP) - Health officials are trying to determine if the death of a Madison County woman at the University of Kentucky Hospital had anything to do with her sister's two pet birds and a gerbil-like rodent.

Twenty-two-year-old Ashley Foley died Tuesday the result of what the Fayette County coroner's office dubbed "an unknown infection."

The owner of the pets is being treated at a Lexington hospital for a respiratory ailment. Director Nancy Crewe of the Jessamine County Health Department says there is no direct cause-and-effect link yet.

Director John Carpenter of Jessamine County Emergency Management says the pets were confiscated from a residence southeast of Nicholasville and euthanized. They were then taken to the UK Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center, but scientists there say nothing unusual was found.

It was determined that bird flu was not involved.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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