Dear Matthew Alice: My mother-in-law told me she believes her father got Parkinson’s disease from a flu shot. I think it sounds pretty far-fetched. But she insists on it with the same tenacity she asserts my wife and I are raising our children incorrectly, so I know she’s serious about it. Have you ever heard of this link between flu shots and Parkinson’s, or does this belong on the '‘grassy knoll” slag heap? — D.D. in La Jolla
You and Mrs. D must be doing a dandy job with the kids, ’cause that flu shot story, medically, is DOA. No vital signs at all, according to neurologist Dr. Dee Silver, medical advisor to the local office of the American Parkinson’s Disease Association. The origin of Parkinsonism is unknown, though the neuromuscular symptoms are related to a dopamine imbalance in the brain. Does mom-in-law often peruse the British medical journal Lancet? In ’82 she might have seen a study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showing a significant relationship between exposure to Type-A (swine) flu and the eventual onset of encephalitis or Parkinson’s disease (based on medical records of influenza survivors during the 1918 pandemic). Again, a very stretchy connection. On the other hand, mum’n’law is at least partly responsible for the wickedly alluring and brilliant woman you married, so maybe we’ll cut her some slack.