Health Departments donating to sock drive this holiday season to raise awareness for Hepatitis C

Posted 29 December 2019 at 7:22 pm

Genesee, Orleans & Wyoming Public Health Column

Provided photo: Tammi Bale of Clarendon has collected socks the past four years in memory of her son, Robert Bale. She donates them to the Open Door Mission in Rochester.

There is currently no vaccine available to prevent Hepatitis C, but early diagnosis of Hepatitis C is important as it can prevent serious liver problems.

Approximately 3.2 million people in the U.S. have chronic Hepatitis C, but most do not know that they are infected. This is exactly why testing is so important!

Hepatitis C is primarily spread through contact with blood from an infected person, even in amounts too small to see.  People with Hepatitis C often have no symptoms. If symptoms do occur, they can be a sign of advanced liver disease (such as cirrhosis or scarring of the liver).

“Hepatitis C is a leading cause of liver cancer and the leading cause of liver transplants,” stated Brenden Bedard, deputy director of Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments.

New treatments for Hepatitis C are available and more are in development. Today, chronic Hepatitis C Virus (HCV) is usually curable with oral medications taken every day for two to six months. According to the Department of Health and Human Services, “The homeless population is disproportionately impacted by HCV infection, with an estimated prevalence of 22% to 53% percent.” (Dan, 2018).

Hepatitis C testing is recommended if you,

• Were born from 1945 through 1965

• Injected drugs

• Received donated blood or organs before 1992

• Have been exposed to blood on the job through a needle stick injury with a sharp object

• Have medical conditions, such as chronic liver disease or HIV/AIDS

To increase awareness about Hepatitis C, the Genesee and Orleans County Health Departments are donating socks to Tammi Bale who operates the “Just Socks, Ma” Campaign, collecting socks to donate to those in need in memory of her son Robert Bale who passed away of a drug overdose in 2016.

“These socks read #NYCuresHepC and is a reminder to get tested and that a cure is available to those who need it,” Bedard said. “It’s a small way to give back to the community this holiday season and increase a valuable message.”

Bale has done an annual sock drive the past four years. Last year she donated 1,583 pairs to the Open Door Mission in Rochester. She does the sock drive in memory of her son, who was 28 when he died.

“I wasn’t able to help him because I didn’t know anything was wrong (substance use disorder),” she said. “He had a good job, was working 50 hours a week and had just gotten a raise. No one knew his secret, not even his roommate. It’s good to try to find out what is happening in your child’s life so this doesn’t happen. This campaign makes me happy and will hopefully make Robert proud.”

Tammi is also giving back by operating a Facebook group named “Angel Mothers Unite” providing uplifting messages to those who need it.

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