Social media explodes over ugly medical questions

A onetime tight-knit community is reeling after a man who had proposed changes to their water supply to fight Ebola put out a news release outlining the plan and posing a series of questions for a woman with postpartum depression.

Mayor Michael Hurley of Kashechewan, a small reserve in northern Ontario, sparked anger when he asked 23-year-old Kamla Fitsum, who is from India, via Twitter if her cv indicated she’d gotten vaccinated against the deadly virus.

“Does having the CT-19 vaccinated change my period or relieve my PMS as they say you can go many days without bleed/bleed?” he wrote on 30 April. “Please advise kindly. Thanks.”

After public outcry over the offensive tweet, Hurley is now exploring sanctions against his s lieutenant and colleague on the council, who posted the incendiary tweet, despite it being deleted after eight hours.

“I think he needs to be suspended from council pending an investigation,” Councillor Walter Atkins told CBC News. “If he’s found guilty, he should be given a reprimand, and his salary docked.”

Hurley told CBC he feels uncomfortable looking back at the question Fitsum posed because he never went to her home to collect answers and doesn’t see how she can be offensive to anyone. He also said that he intended to form an advisory committee on giving vaccinations for Ebola, but Fitsum shot down that idea and is “livid” about the cyberbullying of her views, CBC reported.

“All of this is very unsettling for all of us, to sit here and explain the sentiment behind the tweets was very well-intentioned,” Hurley said. “This was a man who had an awful lot on his mind. It was not a malicious tweet.”

The councillor has said he doesn’t know what Fitsum’s response would have been to the question, whether she would have said she didn’t feel anything changed after her inoculation, and whether she’d have said she felt any differently. He also said he’d likely send the same question to an infectious disease doctor instead of a woman.

The concern over Ebola outbreaks is serious, Hurley added. As of August 1, there were 11 deaths from the virus among 1,712 suspected cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Only two people in Canada have contracted Ebola so far, both of whom recovered.

While some welcomed Hurley’s planned discipline, others on Twitter decried the mayor’s actions, and renewed attacks on Fitsum for her use of the term “postpartum depression.”

For some, however, there’s just no excuse for Hurley’s comments.

“We live in a tweet culture where everything has to be public or private immediately and it became a public abuse of a young woman who needed medical privacy to cope with a horrible time,” said Gerry McQueen, a renowned Toronto psychologist and author.

Follow Alexandra Bruell on Twitter at @ABruell_Nexstar.

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