Gary Giles and his wife, Juanita, would often use their hands to catch the bats that would end up flying around inside their home in Moroni, Utah, and they never had any issues. "The bats would lick our fingers, almost like they could taste the saltiness of our fingers, but they never bit us," Juanita Giles tells KSL. But things started going south with Gary Giles' health in mid-October, when he first started experiencing neck and back pain, and he headed to the ER on Oct. 19. He was treated and sent home with meds, but soon he was wheezing and feeling numbness and tingling, and he was rushed by ambulance to the ER. He died at the age of 55 Sunday, surrounded by his family, and doctors say the cause of death was rabies, likely from the bats. It's Utah's first death from rabies in almost 75 years.
On a GoFundMe that has raised more than $7,300 to help the family pay for medical and funeral costs, one of Giles' daughters explains her dad was transferred to the ICU on Oct. 20, and the family was told he was in a coma on Oct. 26. He was taken off life support Sunday. A Utah Department of Health epidemiologist tells KSL contracting rabies is rare, and that bats are the most common cause in Utah, but that once symptoms pop up—and they can take three to 12 weeks to emerge—it's usually fatal. He adds people may not even feel the bat's tiny claws or teeth puncturing the skin. "I've always thought bats were kind of cute," Juanita Giles tells KSL, adding she and her husband would sometimes "wake up in the night and they would be walking on our bed." She adds: "I had no idea the kind of risk we were at." (A New Jersey woman strangled a rabid fox.)