Flu Leads to Higher Chance of Parkinson’s

Influenza and occupational vibration affect likelihood of Parkinsons disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Avoiding and caring for any illness is important, but what if there wasn't a known cure or preventative program for your condition? Although this is the case for those living with Parkinson's disease (PD), a better understanding of the condition is underway.

Two recent studies conducted by a single group of researchers investigated the risk of infections and occupational hazards on the development of PD.

The studies found that severe influenza increased the likelihood of developing PD later in life, while contracting red measles as a child and occupational exposure to vibration decreased the likelihood.

"Take care when experiencing any infection or illness"

Lead author of both reports, Anne Harris, PhD, and her research team from the University of British Columbia, interviewed 403 PD patients and 405 healthy patients who acted as a control group, all between the ages of 40 and 69.

The PD cases were initially verified through phone interviews about chronic diseases, current medications and reasons for taking medication.

A second interview was conducted in person, and participants were asked about previous jobs and personal and medical histories, including days absent from work, number of people contacted on a typical work day, living accommodations, past infectious diseases, number of lifetime flu shots and occupational exposure to animals.

Steps were taken to properly categorize and measure vibration exposure.

Occupational hygienists reviewed the job histories to account for possible unreported work tasks and exclude situations of indirect exposure, such as working near equipment but not with it.

The vibration exposure was calculated using measurements of vibration intensity from each type of equipment found in previous studies and assessments.

The researchers found that a severe case of influenza doubled the chance that a person would develop PD later in life, while those who contracted red measles as children were 35 percent less likely to develop PD.

Study participants with occupational exposure to vibration, such as operating construction equipment or driving a tractor, experienced a 33 percent reduction in risk of developing PD when compared to those with no vibration exposure.

Those with significant vibration exposure, such as regular operation of snowmobiles, high speed boats or military tanks, had a slightly elevated risk of developing PD.  This finding needs to be further investigated.

The investigation into vibration exposure was published online this month by the American Journal of Epidemiology. The study regarding infections and PD was published online this month in the journal Movement Disorders.

This study was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, WorkSafe BC, and the Pacific Parkinson’s Research Centre. Salary support to some research team members was provided by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Public Health Agency of Canada, the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research and the University of British Columbia Bridge Program.

The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 25, 2012
Last Updated:
March 22, 2013