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Utah Man's Rabies Death Is First In State Since 1944

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A Utah family frequently let bats land on their hands thinking that they did not bring any harm. They were not aware that bats are carriers of rabies.  ( Cindy Parks | Pixabay )

A 55-year-old man from Utah is the first person to die of rabies in the state since 1944. His rabies was possibly a result of being in contact with a bat.

Neck And Back Pain

On Oct. 19 and 20, Gary Giles of Utah was in the emergency room for intense neck and back pain that progressed to numbness and a tingling sensation in his arms, followed by uncontrollable muscle spasms. He was initially diagnosed with a potentially pulled muscle because of an incident just days prior wherein he "tweaked" his neck and pinched a nerve.

Doctors gave him steroids for possible inflammation around the nerves on both occasions, but the medications were said to yield negative results. On the evening of Oct. 20 he was transferred to the ICU, and he and his family stayed at the hospital for intensive testing for the next nine days, all of which turned up normal.

First Rabies Death In Utah Since 1944

By Oct. 26, Giles was in a comatose, and doctors found out through EEG and MRI testing that his brain was experiencing up to 16 seizures an hour. Although his seizures were eventually stabilized, further testing revealed that he was already steadily declining.

He passed away after family members made the difficult decision of taking him off life support.

Rabid Bats

According to his wife, they frequently allowed bats to land on their hands and even lick their fingers because the creatures never hurt or bit them. In fact, she states that she had even experienced waking up at night to find a bat walking on their bed, and that they would always just catch the bats with their hands and release them outside.

Evidently, the couple was unaware that bats are carriers of rabies, which is why they allowed the creatures to get close to them. The family set up a GoFundMe page to aid with the medical and funeral bills, as Giles did not have life insurance.

Because of what happened to Giles, the Utah Department of Health made a simple reminder to “NEVER TOUCH A BAT,” also reminding Utahns to keep bats out of their home, to keep pets indoors to avoid having contact with wild animals, and to report any stray or wild animal sightings.

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