Utah man, 55, who used to encourage bats to land on his hands to feed becomes

Utah man, 55, who used to encourage bats to land on his hands to feed becomes the state’s first rabies death since 1944

  • Gary Giles, 55, has died from rabies in Utah – the first such death since 1944
  • Gary likely contracted the disease from bats that he and his widow handled 
  • ‘The bats would lick our fingers, almost like they could taste the saltiness of our fingers, but they never bit us,’ Juanita Giles said 
  • Rabies can also be contracted through saliva of an infected animal, per the CDC
  • Now, Juanita and other family members are getting vaccinated out of caution
  • A GoFundMe page has been set up to help pay for medical and funeral expenses
Gary Giles, 55 (pictured), from Utah has become the state's first recorded rabies death in nearly three-quarters of a century, passing away after being taken off of life support on Sunday after slipping into a coma

Gary Giles, 55 (pictured), from Utah has become the state’s first recorded rabies death in nearly three-quarters of a century, passing away after being taken off of life support on Sunday after slipping into a coma

A Utah man has become the state’s first recorded rabies death in nearly three-quarters of a century.

Gary Giles, 55, passed away on Sunday at the Intermountain Medical Center hospital in Murray, Utah, surrounded by his family, according to his obituary.  

Gary likely contracted rabies from bats that he and his widow, Juanita Giles, would allow to land on their hands and lick them, and even walk around in their beds.

‘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 told KSL.com.

‘The bats would lick our fingers, almost like they could taste the saltiness of our fingers, but they never bit us.’  

Gary is the first person in Utah to pass away from rabies since 1944. A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family to help pay for Gary’s medical expenses and funeral costs.

Gary (right) likely contracted rabies from bats that he and his widow, Juanita Giles (left), would allow to land on their hands and lick them, and even walk around in their beds.

Gary (right) likely contracted rabies from bats that he and his widow, Juanita Giles (left), would allow to land on their hands and lick them, and even walk around in their beds.

Gary was taken off of life support on Sunday, after the effects of the rabies had left him with no brain activity for days.

‘My dad has always been a giver,’ Crystal Sedgewick, Gary’s daugther, said.

‘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.’

While about 7,000 cases of rabies in animals are reported to federal officials each year, human rabies is rare in the United States, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

With Gary’s death this week, there have been only 56 cases diagnosed since 1990.

Gary was taken off of life support on Sunday, after the effects of the rabies had left him with no brain activity for days

Gary was taken off of life support on Sunday, after the effects of the rabies had left him with no brain activity for days

'I've always thought bats were kind of cute, but I had no idea the kind of risk we were at,' Juanita said. 'We would wake up in the night and they would be walking on our bed'

‘I’ve always thought bats were kind of cute, but I had no idea the kind of risk we were at,’ Juanita said. ‘We would wake up in the night and they would be walking on our bed’

The CDC recommends immediately undergoing rabies treatment if you’re bit by a rabid animal, rather than waiting for symptoms to show up, which may take days, months, or even up to one year.

Rabies can also be transmitted through saliva, which was likely the case for Gary.

‘I’ve always thought bats were kind of cute, but I had no idea the kind of risk we were at,’ Juanita said. ‘We would wake up in the night and they would be walking on our bed.’

If left untreated, rabies can cause pain, fatigue, headaches, fever, and irritability, followed by seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis. 

Gary’s rabies infection first presented as intense back and neck pain, so he went to the emergency room on October 19, where he was diagnosed with a likely pulled muscle.

Gary's rabies infection first presented as intense back and neck pain, so he went to the emergency room on October 19, where he was diagnosed with a likely pulled muscle; Gary (left) and Juanita (right) are pictured here on December 28, 2012

Gary’s rabies infection first presented as intense back and neck pain, so he went to the emergency room on October 19, where he was diagnosed with a likely pulled muscle; Gary (left) and Juanita (right) are pictured here on December 28, 2012

Those symptoms quickly progressed to numbness and tingling in his arms, followed by muscle spasms and seizures; Gary is shown here with a family member

Those symptoms quickly progressed to numbness and tingling in his arms, followed by muscle spasms and seizures; Gary is shown here with a family member

Those symptoms quickly progressed to numbness and tingling in his arms, followed by muscle spasms, seizures, and delusional behavior, according to the GoFundMe campaign page.

Human rabies is almost always fatal, with death occurring within days of these types of advanced symptoms.

Juanita has said she and other family members are now getting vaccinated for rabies, following the family’s tragic loss. 

Juanita has said she and other family members are now getting vaccinated for rabies, following the family's tragic loss of its patriarch; Gary is pictured on October 5, 2012

Juanita has said she and other family members are now getting vaccinated for rabies, following the family’s tragic loss of its patriarch; Gary is pictured on October 5, 2012

How painful is to die from rabies?

If rabies is left untreated, it is almost always fatal in humans.

Symptoms may take days, months, or even up to one year to show up.

They may first present as pain, fatigue, headaches, fever, and irritability.

The infection may then cause seizures, hallucinations, and paralysis.

Death usually occurs within days of advanced symptoms developing.

If un-vaccinated people may have been exposed to rabies, preventative treatment is highly recommended.

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The CDC recommends vaccination immediately upon potential exposure, rather than waiting for any sort of rabies symptoms to develop. 

‘A person who is exposed and has never been vaccinated against rabies should get four doses of rabies vaccine – one dose right away, and additional doses on the third, seventh, and fourteenth days. They should also get another shot called Rabies Immune Globulin at the same time as the first dose,’ the CDC said.

‘A person who has been previously vaccinated should get two doses of rabies vaccine – one right away and another on the third day. Rabies Immune Globulin is not needed.’

Animals exhibiting characteristics of being infected with rabies may be either acting hostile and aggressive, or tame and easily approachable, according to the CDC.

Animals infected with rabies, like raccoons and bats – which are the most common source of human infection – may also appear to be foaming at the mouth, as the disease causes excessive saliva production.

So far, the state of Utah has returned 14 positive tests from bats for rabies. The annual average is 25.

‘If you find yourself near a bat, dead or alive, do not touch, hit or kill it,’ state epidemiologist Dallin Peterson told the Salt Lake Tribune.

‘Call your health care provider or local public health department immediately to report the possible exposure and determine whether preventative treatment is necessary.’

The CDC recommends vaccination immediately upon potential exposure, rather than waiting for any sort of rabies symptoms to develop; A GoFundMe page has been set up  for Gary's (pictured) family to help with medical and funeral costs

The CDC recommends vaccination immediately upon potential exposure, rather than waiting for any sort of rabies symptoms to develop; A GoFundMe page has been set up  for Gary’s (pictured) family to help with medical and funeral costs