(KUTV) — A man from Moroni is the first to die from rabies in Utah in more than 70 years. His family wants to warn others, saying exposure to bats is how he contracted the virus.
Gary Giles, 55, was a mechanic and father of four. He caught bats to get them out of his house.
“Apparently, they would catch them,” said Crystal Sedgwick, his daughter. “My parents always thought they were kind of cute, so my dad would let my mom pet them.”
Neck and back pain became uncontrollable tremors and then delusion, she said. Giles was in intensive care since mid-October. He died Sunday.
“It was a very very painful death for my dad, and it was hard to watch him go through,” Sedgwick said.
The family is asking for donations online, saying Giles did not have life insurance and his wife could be left with hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical bills. More than $6,000 had been donated as of Thursday evening.
It was only after his death that the family learned Giles had rabies. It’s the first case in the state since 1944, according to the Utah Department of Health.
“Our hope is that people that see bats in their home contact someone else to have them removed,” Sedgwick said, “that they don’t try to remove them themselves, that they don’t touch them.”
Rabies in humans is extremely rare. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tracks cases and find only one to three people are infected in the U.S. annually.