Utah Man Dies From Rabies After Exposure to Bat

By author of The Realblog with Stephanie Mallory

First Utah Resident to Die From Rabies Since 1944

A Utah man who passed away on Sunday is the first person to die from rabies in the state since 1944. 

According to ABC4.com, Gary Giles was pulled of life support on Sunday. The 55-year-old husband and father was removing bats from his Moroni home when he likely became infected with the virus.

Rabies experts say death from rabies is extremely rare because most people get treatment after being exposed to the deadly virus. The Utah Department of Health says eight cases have been confirmed this year. There were 23 cases of rabies in 2017.

"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. 

Critter Control owner Caleb Stroh says, "The No. 1 thing they shouldn't do is pick up that bat." 

Even though it is a desert state, Utah has a robust bat population. 

If someone makes contact with a possibly rabid animal, such as a bat, he or she should 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. 

In addition to bats, 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 animal control service or contact your state's wildlife division for assistance.

Rabies, which affects the nervous system of humans and animals, can be contracted through bites, scratches or saliva from the affected animal.

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