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'I can't get that time back' | Hepatitis A kills Polk Co. man

A Polk County woman speaks to 10News after the disease kills her brother, hoping to save other lives.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — The pain of losing her brother is still fresh for Shari Roberts.

"I can't get that time back -- none of us can. He's got kids that need their dad. It's so hard to see my parents go through this. They shouldn't have to bury their son," Roberts told 10News.

Tracy Sells died in late June after contracting a virus Roberts had hardly heard of.

He was a father of four boys; two sons and two stepsons. His oldest is just 15 years old.

"He called me to tell me that the doctor had called and told him he needed to go to the emergency room, that he had his liver markers were high and that he had hep A," Sells said.

She says her brother was in and out of hospitals in Tampa and Polk County before taking a turn for the worse.

His death certificate lists his cause of death as Acute Hepatic Failure, which is liver failure. It also lists Acute Hepatitis A. The family isn't even sure how he got it.

"The worst part about it, all he did was go eat somewhere. We don't even know where," she told 10 News.

She says Sells had diabetes, and doctors discovered he had scarring on his liver after he was diagnosed with hepatitis A.

Because he was generally healthy, she worries that this could happen to other people in Florida, which is why she's sharing his story.

"Anybody who can see this and go get their shot, if one person's life can be saved, at least that's some kind of honor for my brother, ya know," Roberts said.

You can protect yourself from the virus. It spreads when someone comes into contact with contaminated feces or contaminated food. That's why we warn you when a restaurant employee becomes infected with the liver-damaging virus.

The best way to protect yourself is to get a vaccination and to wash your hands often. But use soap and water -- hand sanitizers are not effective.

Here’s a link to the Florida Department of Health to get more information about Hepatitis A prevention. 

RELATED: Thinking about getting the hepatitis A vaccine? You might need your wallet

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