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Utah man dies from rabies after encouraging bats to land on his hands

Gary Giles
Pictured, Gary Giles of Utah. Photo via GoFundme.
Gary Giles
Pictured, Gary Giles of Utah. Photo via GoFundme.

Gary Giles a Moroni, Utah man becomes the state’s first rabies fatality in 74 years after likely contracting the disease from bats he openly encouraged to land on his hands. 

A Utah father of four has died after encouraging bats to land on his hands at his family home. The man’s death is the state’s first reported case of rabies death in more than 70 years.

The first signs that Gary Giles, 55, had fallen ill came in October when he began suffering from intense back and neck pain.

At the time, Giles and his wife, Juanita had taken to often removing bats from their home in Moroni, not realizing that they were possibly a vector for rabies- reported KSL.

‘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,’ explained wife, Juanita Giles

According to Juanita Giles the bats would lick their fingers but never bit them.


Gary Giles condition continues to deteriorate until he falls into a coma and passes away weeks later:

Matters escalated when October 19, Giles went to the emergency room, complaining of pains only to be told he had likely pulled a muscle. Soon after Giles condition continued to deteriorate. 

Inside Edition reported Giles suffering from numbness and tingling in his arms, followed by muscle spasms, seizures and delusions.

Giles was eventually placed on life support after falling into a coma. He was taken off life support on Sunday, surrounded by his family.

Gary Giles and Juanita Giles
Gary Giles and Juanita Giles

Gary Giles Utah man died because he wasn’t aware of real life health dangers: 

Rabies can be transmitted through saliva that comes in contact with broken skin, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Juanita Giles said she and her family have gotten vaccinated for rabies since her husband’s diagnosis.

‘I had no clue,’ she said of the risk. ‘We would wake up in the night and they would be walking on our bed.’

Giles was the first person to die from rabies in Utah since 1944 according to the state’s Department of Health. About 7,000 cases of rabies in animals are reported to federal officials each year, but cases humans contracting rabies are much rarer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Including Giles’ case, there have been 56 incidents of humans diagnosed with the disease in the U.S. since 1990.

‘However, between 16,000 and 39,000 people are vaccinated each year as a precaution after animal bites,’ the CDC wrote, recommending anyone who fears they may have been bit by a rabid animal should seek treatment immediately. 

Bats are the most common source of rabies in Utah, Utah Department of Health epidemiologist Dallin Peterson said. He said a bite or scratch from a bat may not be felt because a bat’s teeth and claws are very small.

The disease, as is likely with the case of Gary Giles, can also be transmitted via an infected animal’s saliva.

Giles untimely death has led to the family creating a GoFundMe page to offset medical and funeral costs.

‘My dad has always been a giver,’ Giles daughter, Crystal Sedgewick, wrote on the fundraiser page. ‘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.’