Man dies of rabies after contracting disease from bats that frequently entered their home
Gary Giles died of rabies after his symptoms went undetected as the disease slowly infected his brain and other organs, ultimately leading to his death
A 55-year-old man from Utah has died of rabies, the first death of its kind in state since 1944. Gary Giles, a Moroni man, succumbed to the disease on Sunday.
KSL reports that Gary struggled for weeks in the hospital as the disease slowly worsened. It infected his brain and other organs, ultimately leading to his death. The doctors were unable to do anything to save him. Giles contracted the disease from bats that frequently entered his home. His wife Juanita Giles and him did not realise that the bats around their house were rabid and carriers of this deadly virus.
His wife said, "The bats never hurt us, and we were always catching them in our hands and releasing them outside because you hear all the time about how bats are good for the insect population, and you don't want to hurt them." She continued, "The bats would lick our fingers, almost like they could taste the saltiness of our fingers, but they never bit us."
Gary's early symptoms were a neck and back pain for which he visited the emergency room on October 19th. Not realising that the symptoms could be due to rabies, he was sent home with steroids and other medication to manage the pain of what was assumed to be a pulled muscle. However, the pain soon escalated into numbness, wheezing and tingling, which is when his wife panicked and called 911. He was taken to a local emergency room after which he was shifted to the ICU at Utah Valley Hospital at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray which is where he died.
The entire family is still reeling from the tragic incident. They have also understood how serious the situation is and are working towards vaccinating themselves to prevent any future damage. Despite there being a limited supply of the vaccine in the state, the other family members are making sure they take this preventive measure.
"It's very scary and it is creating a bit of a panic," said Juanita. Crystal Sedgewick, Gary's daughter, set up a fundraising page to help the family. Remembering her father during his final hours she said, "My dad has always been a giver, during the final 24 hours that he was still able to speak with us, he was in a delusional state, and he still couldn't stop talking about all the people that he needed to help and favors that he had yet to follow through with."
Dallin Peterson an epidemiologist at Utah Department of Health said that bats were the most common cause of rabies in the state. He added that even a bite or a scratch from a bat could result in the virus being transmitted. As is most likely the case with Gary, the disease can also be spread through the bat's saliva.
Rabies is an extremely rare condition, but once it is contracted and the symptoms show, it is nearly always fatal. Peterson said that after exposure to an infected animal, symptoms can take anytime between 3-12 weeks to develop. He adds, "Once it gets into the central nervous system, it advances quickly, it's a terrible way to pass away."
The last deadly case of rabies was reported 74 years ago in Utah.