SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 Utah) A family mourns the loss of their father after he died from rabies.
Gary Giles was pulled off life support Sunday, becoming the first Utahn to lose his life from the virus since 1944.
“He would do anything for anyone,” Crystal Sedgwick said, Giles’ oldest daughter.
Sedgwick said her father was removing bats from his Moroni home when investigators believe he became infected. He was 55.
“When we heard that it was rabies, at first I was a little bit shocked,” Sedgwick said.
Rabies experts say death is extremely uncommon because most people get treatment after coming in contact with the virus. According to the Utah Department of Health, eight cases have been confirmed so far this year. last year, there were 23.
“Once you have rabies, there is a 97 percent chance you are going to die. If you think you’ve been exposed to rabies, it’s worth the money to get the shots,” Utah State Extension Office Associate Professor Nikki Frey said, who specializes in rabies.
In 2017, several students were treated for rabies after hundreds of bats got into West and Layton High Schools.
“The number one thing they shouldn’t do is pick up that bat,” Critter Control owner Caleb Stroh said.
For being a desert state, Stoh’s said Utah has a robust bat population. It’s common for them to make your house their home.
If contact is made with a rabid animal, wash all wounds and scratches with water and get medical attention immediately.
“It was a very hard and painful death for my dad and we don’t want anyone else to go through it,” Sedgwick said.
Bats aren’t the only carriers of rabies, skunks, raccoons, coyotes, and foxes can transmit the virus. Dogs, cats, horses, and cattle can also be infected.
“If you find yourself near a bat, dead or alive, do not touch, hit, or kill it,” said Dallin Peterson, epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH). If you have bats in your home, seek help from a local company to find ways to remove the bats or contact the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources (DWR) for more information.