Utah man is state’s first rabies death in 74 years

A Utah man who caught bats and let his wife play with them, died of rabies — the first death of its kind in the state in 74 years.

Gary Giles, 55, first began having neck and back pain on Oct. 19 and doctors thought he’d just pulled a muscle.

But the pain only got worse and turned to numbness and tingling.

“Being touched, he felt like he had pins and needles all over his skin,” Giles’ daughter Crystal Sedgwick told Fox13. “He felt like his skin was on fire.”

It wasn’t until Giles died on Sunday at Utah Valley Hospital that doctors realized he’d been infected with rabies, Sedgwick said.

The state’s health department believe he contracted the deadly virus from bats, which literally hung around his home, but they’re still working to confirm the theory.

“My mom has always thought that bats were really cute, so he would sit there and hold them for her and let her pet their heads, and they would lick them,” Sedgwick said.

Sedgwick’s mom, Juanita Giles, said she didn’t realize the bats that infested their home could be carriers of the highly contagious ailment.

“I had no clue,” she told KSL. “We would wake up in the night and they would be walking on our bed.”

“I’ve always thought bats were kind of cute, but I had no idea the kind of risk we were at.”

Since her husband’s death, Juanita said she and the rest of the family are getting vaccinated — just in case.

The last time someone died of rabies in Utah was 1944.

According to the CDC, there have only been 23 cases of human rabies reported in the US between 2008 and 2017.

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