Back in November, the entire nation was stunned to learn that a 55-year-old Utah man had died of the ghastly disease known as rabies. But now, months later, the family is hit hard with a bitter legacy: a bill for $50,000 for preventive shots for relatives who were in contact with him.
“Gary Giles, who became the first person to die from rabies in the state since 1944, had contracted the disease from bats in the couple’s home. About 25 family members, including his widow Juanita, visited Giles during his stay in the ICU," Fox News reports.
“At the time of her husband’s death, Juanita Giles told media outlets that the couple allowed bats to land on their hands and lick their fingers because they hadn’t known they were infected with rabies. She told KSL-TV that they woke up to find the bats walking on the couple’s bed.”
"He and his wife, Juanita Giles, didn't realize that the bats that had frequented their home were carriers of a rabid and highly contagious virus.”
The nightmare started in October when Gary Giles began suffering from intense back and neck pain which “progressed to tingling in his arms.” He went to the ER where he was admitted for an, at the time, unknown condition.
Once the muscle spasms began he was admitted to the ICU where he was “intubated and sedated.” It wasn’t until the postmortem after his death that the doctors learned the truth: Gary Giles had died of rabies!
She had barely begun mourning for her husband when Juanita Giles received the rest of the bad news. She and any members of the family who had been in contact with Mr. Giles needed to start preventive treatment so they would not get the disease.
The Health Department officials told Juanita that Gary had likely contracted the illness from a bat in his home several weeks earlier. They also told her 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.
The rabies vaccine is considered the only cure, but the four-shot series must be administered on a strict schedule, beginning as soon as possible after the exposure.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “The first dose of the four-dose course should be administered as soon as possible after exposure. Additional doses should be administered on days 3, 7, and 14 after the first vaccination.”
So, Juanita and the rest of the family, 25 members in all (who could have been exposed during their hospital visits to Gary), followed the health Department’s orders and had all their vaccines. At the time, Juanita was told by the health department not to worry about the cost.
“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.
Thankfully, no one else contracted the dreaded disease, which is always fatal.
THEN they got the bill! And it turns out they SHOULD have worried about it after all. In all, it amounted to over $50,000! Even after insurance!! Stunned and unsure of what to do, Juanita contacted the health department to remind them of what they had told her.
They were told that the amount needs to be paid but they should seek out community resources to help with the cost.
Juanita acknowledged that the Health Department cannot control the cost of health care, but she believes that they need to stand by what they told her at the start.
“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,” she told the KSL-TV.
“Family warns of bat danger after Utah man dies from rabies”
In response, the Health Department said that while the preventive treatment is “life-saving and highly effective,” it is “unfortunately very expensive.”
In their statement, while making no promises, they did vow to work with the family to get them some relief. They plan to educate the family to “hopefully help them find a resolution through vaccine manufacturers and health care providers.”
Please join us in praying for this family who has just had insult added to injury with the exorbitant bill for the lifesaving treatment that actually DID save their lives.
“So sad & preventable. Utah man dies of #rabies; he and his wife didn't realize 'friendly' bats could be carriers. 'The bats would lick our fingers, almost like they could taste the saltiness of our fingers, but they never bit us'."