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Wed Jan 4, 2017, 01:57 PM

Gunshot wounds are contagious; bullets spread like the flu, study finds [View all]

Source: Arstechnica

Gun violence can ripple through social networks and communities just like an infectious germ, Harvard and Yale researchers reported Monday in JAMA Internal Medicine. This may not seem surprising, because earlier work has found that gun violence often clusters in certain areas and groups, particularly those steeped in gangs and drugs. But this study is the first to show that gun violence spreads directly from person to person after shootings—it’s not just about growing up in the same rough neighborhood or having the same risk factors.

The finding is good news, because, after decades of research, scientists are pretty good at predicting how infections cascade through populations. Applying disease-based theories and simulations to gun violence could help health workers get ahead of bullets and intervene before violence spreads. A more informed strategy could also cut down on intervention tactics that “rest largely on geographic or group-based policing efforts that tend to disproportionately affect disadvantaged minority communities,” the authors argue.

For the study, the researchers, led by sociologist Andrew Papachristos at Yale, dug into gunshot and arrest data from Chicago, covering the years between 2006 and 2014. The Windy City, which made headlines over the recent holidays for having more than 100 gunshot victims, is much like other big US cities in that its gun violence is intensely concentrated in specific neighborhoods.

Peering into arrest records, the researchers focused on 138,163 people that they considered part of a large social network, which the researchers based on people arrested together (the network represented 29.9 percent of those arrested in Chicago during the study period). Of those, 9,773 people were involved in 11,123 gun violence incidents, both fatal and nonfatal.

Read more: http://arstechnica.com/science/2017/01/gunshot-wounds-are-contagious-bullets-spread-like-the-flu-study-finds/

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