Family Mourning Father’s Death From Rabies Gets Huge Bill for Vaccines

February 4, 2019 Updated: February 4, 2019

A Utah family mourning the death of a loved one who died from rabies was hit with a huge bill for rabies vaccinations.

Gary Giles, 55, died from the rare disease in November 2018, marking the first time someone has died from rabies in Utah since 1944.

Family members said that they didn’t realize that the bats in their house carried the deadly virus.

“The bats never hurt us, and we were always catching them in our hands and releasing them outside because you hear all the time about how bats are good for the insect population, and you don’t want to hurt them,” Gary Giles’s wife Juanita Giles told Deseret News.

Besides bats, rabies can be transmitted through a range of wild animals, such as raccoons, skunks, and foxes that have become rabid, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The disease infects the central nervous system and usually kills within days.

After Gary Giles died, Juanita Giles and 25 family members received a rabies vaccine because of fears that they were exposed to the disease.

“It can be passed by saliva, and that’s why the health department told us to get the shots,” Catherin Dalton, Gary Giles’s sister, told KSL.

“They called the closest ER and called me right back, and said, ‘They are waiting for you,’” Juanita Giles said, adding that she was told by the Utah Health Department not to worry about the cost.

But the family now has to worry about the cost after getting a $50,000 bill for the vaccinations.

The family said officials need to have a better protocol in place for future rabies cases.

“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 said.

The Utah Department of Health released a statement saying officials are trying to work on the case and that the vaccines “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,” the department stated.

“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.”

Rabies Vaccine

The rabies vaccine typically requires multiple doses, according to the 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,” the agency stated.

“For adults, the vaccination should always be administered intramuscularly in the deltoid area (arm). For children, the anterolateral aspect of the thigh is also acceptable. The gluteal area should never be used for rabies vaccine injections because observations suggest administration in this area results in lower neutralizing antibody titers.”

Even people who were previously vaccinated should receive two doses of vaccine, one immediately and the other three days later.

Fatalities usually only happen to people who don’t seek medical assistance after being bitten by a rabid animal, usually because they weren’t aware of the exposure. Although the number of deaths in the United States has declined dramatically in recent decades, the cost of rabies prevention has risen to an estimated $245 million to $510 million annually.

According to the CDC, the cost per human life saved from rabies ranges from approximately $10,000 to $100 million, depending on the nature of the exposure and the probability of rabies in a region.

From NTD News

Follow Zachary on Twitter: @zackstieber
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