HEALTH

Family Of Fatal Rabies Patient Faces Big Bill After Getting Vaccine

Jan 31, 2019, 12:13 AM | Updated: 12:15 am

MORONI, Utah – It’s the little things that Juanita Giles holds onto, after the loss of her husband, Gary. He died from an undiagnosed neurological condition, after two weeks in the ICU.

In the midst of her grief, she got a call from the state health department two days later, saying it was from rabies. He likely contracted the illness from a bat in his home several weeks earlier. She said she was told she needed to get to the hospital right away.

“They called the closest ER and called me right back, and said they are waiting for you,” Giles said.

Juanita was given the rabies vaccine immediately and says she was told by the health department, not to worry about the cost.

In all, 25 family members were contacted about getting the shots in case they were exposed through contact with Gary in the hospital.

“It can be passed by saliva, and that’s why the health department told us to get the shots,” said Catherin Dalton, a sister of the rabies patient.

Thanks to the vaccinations, no one in the family became ill with rabies, which is fatal.

Now the family is trying to recover from sticker shock. Even after insurance, family members owe a total of $50,000.

“I know they are trying to save lives, but if you lead somebody to believe there is help out there, you ought to stand behind that too,” Giles added.

The family says even though their case is rare, they believe the Utah Department of Health needs to develop a new protocol to better deal with families who may be exposed to a human case of rabies.

“Heaven forbid this ever happens again, that this can be a learning experience that we can take better care of the next family this happens too,” Dalton said.

In a written statement, the Utah Department of Health said: “We’re committed to continue working with the family to hopefully help them find a resolution through vaccine manufacturers and health care providers.”

The full statement can be found below.

Public health plays a unique role in investigating and responding to disease outbreaks. We learn of certain diseases and then work to assess the risk of those diseases spreading to other members of the public.

Each disease is different. We follow nationally established guidelines for assessing an individual’s risk and for recommending a course of action.

Rabies is a life-threatening disease. If an individual develops symptoms it is almost always fatal. Preventive treatment for rabies is a life-saving treatment and is very effective. It consists of a series of rabies vaccines administered over a two-week period and, in some instances, rabies immune globulin. Preventive treatment, while life-saving and highly effective, is unfortunately very expensive.

Last fall, as we investigated Utah’s first rabies case in nearly 75 years, we identified several individuals whose exposure to the original case put them at considerable risk for developing the disease themselves. These were not casual contacts, these were individuals with direct exposure to infectious fluids of the patient.

Based on that exposure, and following national guidelines, we recommended these individuals receive the series of rabies vaccines. The family followed our recommendation.

They did the right thing by receiving the treatment; it very possibly saved their lives. We recognize this family has been through a lot. The situation they now find themselves in is very unfortunate, and we sympathize with them. We also want to support them. There are financial assistance resources available through vaccine manufacturers and health care providers and we’ve worked with the family to provide them with this information and help steer them in the right direction. We’re committed to continue working with the family to hopefully help them find a resolution.

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Family Of Fatal Rabies Patient Faces Big Bill After Getting Vaccine