Humans and bats and rabies: Not a good combination
Before Gary Giles died of rabies, 25 of his family members went to visit him in the hospital, KSL-TV reported. That decision may cost his loved ones $50,000 in what were potentially “live-saving” treatments.
Gary Giles, 55, was the first man to die of rabies in Utah since 1944, KUTV reported after he died in November. Giles, of Moroni, Utah, was a dad of four and would catch and release bats that flew into his home.
“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,” his wife, Juanita Giles said in November, according to the Deseret News. “The bats would lick our fingers, almost like they could taste the saltiness of our fingers, but they never bit us.”
The couple didn’t realize the bats could have the deadly virus, the Deseret News reported.
But it was a bat that likely gave Gary Giles rabies, the Utah Health State Department said, according to FOX13.
And his family didn’t know he had rabies while visiting him in the hospital. They stayed with him at the hospital for 9 days as doctors ran tests, his daughter Crystal Lynn Sedgwick wrote in a GoFundMe post.
“Everything came back normal,” she wrote. “This was incredibly aggravating to the doctors and to our family.”
Over the course of his time in the hospital, 25 family members came to visit, according to KSL.
He had seizures at first, but then his brain activity started to slow, according to the GoFundMe. His family made the decision to take him off life support because “if he were to wake up he would not be able to function the way that he would want to,” Sedgwick wrote.
It wasn’t until her dad died that the family learned what had killed him — rabies, Sedgwick said, according to FOX13.
The state health department called Juanita Giles two days after her husband died and asked her to go to the hospital immediately, she said, according to KSL. She and the other family members who visited Gary Giles got the recommended rabies-prevention vaccines.
In a statement provided to KSL and published Jan. 31, the Utah Department of Health said the family was right to get the treatment.
“Preventive treatment, while life-saving and highly effective, is unfortunately very expensive,” the department said. It said it will work with the family to “hopefully help them find a resolution” regarding the $50,000 bill.
The Centers for Disease Control says that while the cost can vary, “a course of rabies immune globulin and four doses of vaccine given over a two-week period typically exceeds $3,000.”
“The cost per human life saved from rabies ranges from approximately $10,000 to $100 million, depending on the nature of the exposure and the probability of rabies in a region,” the CDC says.
“The CDC estimates that about one to three people in the U.S. each year come down with rabies,” McClatchy previously reported. “Symptoms of rabies include: hallucinations, coma, difficulty swallowing, seizures, stiff neck, muscle spasms, irritability, headache, anxiety and death.”
Gary Giles’ family wants people to be aware of the rabies risk.
“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,” Sedgwick said, according to KUTV.