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Gary Giles of Moroni has been identified as the man who died from rabies.
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Man Who Died From Rabies Identified As Moroni Resident

MORONI, Utah – A Utah man died after being exposed to rabies — the first human death from rabies in the state since 1944, according to the Utah Department of Health.

A Moroni woman said it was her husband.

Juanita Giles said her husband, Gary, 55, died Sunday. She said he was suffering for about three weeks, starting with back and neck aches. The symptoms worsened from there.

The couple went from hospital to hospital and doctor to doctor, Giles said. No one could diagnose the issue.

UDOH epidemiologist Dallin Peterson said the department suspects an infected bat is to blame.

“Here in Utah we do have migratory bats, but we also have bats that hibernate,” he said. “Sometimes they will find crevices in the home. Last year we had them inside of some of our schools.”

Giles said she and her husband have been dealing with bats in their home all summer.

“The bats never hurt us, and we were always catching them with our hands and releasing them outside,” she said. “You hear all the time about how good the bats are for our insect population and the mosquitoes, and you don’t want to hurt them.”

She said she wants to share what she’s learned so no one else has to suffer.

“We would wake up in the night and they would be walking on our bed,” she said. “Even the bat specialist that was just here says you could be bitten by a bat or scratched by a bat and not even feel it because it’s so minute.”

“They would lick our fingers,” she added. “According to what the doctors in the health department told me, their saliva carries rabies.”

Peterson said the biggest takeaway is to simply not touch bats.

“If you do find bats in your home or wake up with bats in your room, contact an animal professional to come get those bats out of your home,” he said.

A GoFundMe* page has been set up to help the Giles family with medical and funeral costs.

The Utah Department of Health released a list of tips to help others avoid the same tragedy as the Giles family.

The UDOH urges all Utahns to ensure their pets’ rabies vaccines are up-to-date. Utah law requires all domestic dogs, cats and ferrets to have rabies vaccinations. Pet owners are encouraged to check with their veterinarian for more information.

In addition to vaccinating your pets, following these guidelines can help reduce your risk for getting rabies.

• Never touch a bat. Keep bats out of your home. Seal any cracks and gaps where bats can enter.
• Keep pets inside and supervise them when outside. This will help keep pets from coming in contact with wild animals.
• Report stray animals to local authorities. Call local animal control officials to report stray dogs and cats.
• Don’t approach wild animals. Wild animals with rabies may seem unafraid of people. It’s not normal for a wild animal to be friendly with people, so stay away from any animal that seems unafraid. If you see a wild animal acting strangely, report it to animal control.
• In domestic animals, signs of rabies may include behavior changes, general sickness, trouble swallowing, an increase in drool or saliva, and biting at everything, if excited.
• Consider rabies pre-exposure vaccine if traveling out of the country. If traveling to a country where rabies is common and you’ll be there for an extended period of time, ask your doctor whether you should receive the rabies vaccine before you travel.
• Take action if you are bitten. If you are bitten by any animal (domestic or wild), immediately wash the wound well with soap and water and see a health care provider.

*KSLTV does not assure that the money deposited to the account will be applied for the benefit of the persons named as beneficiaries. If you are considering a deposit to the account, you should consult your own advisers and otherwise proceed at your own risk.

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