Sudbury

Sudbury man lives with 'alien' Lyme disease that 'makes you crazy'

Greg Dalton warns people to pay attention to tick bites, even though the chance of contracting the disease in Sudbury and northern Ontario is extremely rare.
Greg Dalton of Sudbury is living with lyme disease, but doesn't let the fear of tick bites keep from enjoying the outdoors. Here is on the trails at Bennett Lake, a wilderness area in the city's south end he fought to preserve from development. (Erik White/CBC)

Greg Dalton is not sure which tick bite gave him Lyme disease — but he does remember the bite two years ago, when he felt something on his hip, several days after a hike in the bush around Thunder Bay.

"And I looked down and it was actually an attached tick, swollen, about the size of a blueberry," said Dalton.

Doctors say the 56-year-old Sudburian likely lived the last decade with an undiagnosed case Lyme disease.

Dalton is taking traditional Chinese medicine to treat his symptoms, which include muscle pain and getting tired easily, with the hope it keeps some of the more serious symptoms away. 

"[Lyme disease] makes you crazy, goes into your brain. Makes you blind," Dalton said. "It's like having an alien in your body."

Even though the disease has forced him to step away from his own engineering business and only work part-time, he isn't too discouraged by his prognosis.

Dalton said the disease isn't keeping him from enjoying strolls in the woods, especially the trails around Bennett Lake in Sudbury's south end, which he fought to preserve from development.

But he is more careful than he used to be.

"I [used to] plunge into the woods and I [didn't] think twice about stepping off a trail," said Dalton. "And now, I do."

Confirmed cases rare

Dalton said he's almost certain he didn't get Lyme disease in the Sudbury area.

John Groulx, an environmental support officer with the Sudbury and District Health Unit agreed it's very unlikely.

While other parts of the province are dealing with a rise in Lyme disease-carrying ticks, they remain quite rare in the north.

"It's not very prevalent," said Groulx. "[However] there's always the potential risk of contracting Lyme disease anywhere in Ontario."

That's because disease-carrying black-legged deer ticks are sometimes brought to northern Ontario on migratory birds, Groulx said.

But he noted that could change in the future. 

"The precise boundaries for tick populations [are] difficult to define," said Groulx. "Because they will eventually expand into neighbouring areas, as long as there's suitable habitat and climate conditions. With climate change there's always that potential."

Every year Sudburians do bring in ticks to the health unit to be tested for Lyme disease, but he said a confirmed case in the area is extremely rare.

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