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Chief medical officer responds after retweeting chronic Lyme disease post

'My intent was by no means meant to be dismissive of people who are experiencing serious health concerns,' said Dr. Robert Strang
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Twitter screenshot

Nova Scotia's chief medical officer of health has been getting some pushback after retweeting a post on social media.

The tweet shared by Dr. Robert Strang was originally posted by the account LymeScience.

It says, "As a former victim of the chronic Lyme cult, I feel it's pretty important that they stop controlling the narrative around Lyme disease with their pseudoscience and misinformation. They've been called a threat to public health for a good reason. But it would help to remember not everyone who calls for it is an idiot. The cult is well-funded and only growing. I'd hope most people can see more needs to be done to stop this anti-science movement."

In response, one person said she's "disgusted," another posted "Seriously Dr Strang? Is this really how you feel about Nova Scotians with Lyme disease? Shame on you." Others supported the tweet.

Dr. Robert Strang issued the following response to HalifaxToday.ca:

My intent was by no means meant to be dismissive of people who are experiencing serious health concerns. There is no question that people are suffering with real and debilitating symptoms. However, what's causing their symptoms is not always clear. We cannot be sure they are getting the right treatment without a proper diagnosis.

The message draws attention to the fact that there is a great deal of misinformation about Lyme disease. The reason this concerns me is because such misinformation can be harmful to people's health, and people are spending a lot of money to seek non-evidence based diagnosis and treatment.

The approach in Nova Scotia for the diagnosis and treatment of Lyme disease is based on current available evidence from national and international expert guidelines. The alternative views on Lyme disease are not evidence based and promote potentially harmful treatment and prevent people from seeking proper diagnosis.

I've spoken about the matter in the past; however, I do realize how messages on social media such as this may be interpreted, and will be conscious of that going forward.

Dalhousie University's Wayne MacKay says he has a lot of respect for Strang, but was surprised when he heard about the tweet.

MacKay even went as far to say it may have violated the province's social media policy.

Nova Scotia's Guidelines for Employees' Use of Social Media requires those who use social media to "always maintain a respectful, constructive tone," and "always provide accurate and clear information that cannot be easily misinterpreted, and refrain from debates over matters of strict opinion."

"It did occur to me that the substance of that tweet may in fact contradict the policy in terms of taking a particular perspective without necessarily having sources, evidence and that kind of thing," he explained.

"The only question that really strikes me that I don't have an answer for is it was a retweet rather than a tweet," MacKay added. "In real terms, it seems to me that retweeting something for the general public is taken as agreeing with it in some way."

The person behind the LymeScience account is not publicly identified on Twitter.

The profile picture is a meme of the Breaking Bad character Jesse Pinkman that says "Yeah Science." The description does not reveal who runs it.

A website linked from the Twitter account provides no further information. Under "About" it says "Working on it!" and a gmail account is the only listed contact information.



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Meghan Groff

About the Author: Meghan Groff

Born in Michigan, raised in Ontario, schooled in Indiana and lives in Nova Scotia; Meghan is the editor for CityNews Halifax.
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