A Utah man reportedly died from rabies Sunday, weeks after handling bats at his family home.
Per KSL, Gary Giles, 55, died after the slow—but devastating—virus infected his brain and other vital organs. His wife told the news station that they would often remove bats from their home, not realizing that they were possibly a vector for rabies.
“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,” Juanita Giles said, adding that the bats would lick their fingers but never bit them.
The Mayo Clinic describes rabies as a virus that’s spread to humans through the saliva of infected animals. While Giles was presumably infected by a bat, the medical center says coyotes, foxes, raccoons, and skunks can also carry the deadly virus.
In Gary’s case, KSL reported that he suffered from back and neck pain that sent him to the emergency room on October 19. He was reportedly sent home with steroids and pain medicine. However, his symptoms reportedly worsened and he experienced wheezing—which led to him being rushed to Utah Valley Hospital.
From there, the 55-year-old was transported to the intensive care unit at Intermountain Medical Center, where he died.
Rabies is almost always fatal once someone begins exhibiting symptoms, which can include fever, fear of water (hydrophobia), vomiting, and partial paralysis. As a result, the Mayo Clinic recommends someone who’s at risk for contracting the virus receive the rabies vaccine. Additionally, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention says someone who’s possibly infected should seek treatment immediately.
The Utah Department of Health said Gary is the first person to die from rabies in their state since 1944. Now, his family says they’re getting the rabies vaccine in light of Gary’s death. They’re also speaking about the ordeal in hopes of sparing others from suffering a similar fate.
His daughter told KUTV, “Our hope is that people that see bats in their home contact someone else to have them removed. That they don’t try to remove them themselves, that they don’t touch them.”
[Featured image: Gary Giles/GoFundMe]