Study says gun violence is contagious and should be treated like a disease

CHICAGO -- More than 700 people killed and 4,300 wounded in shootings in Chicago last year, and according to a new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there should be a new approach to bringing those numbers down.

"Right now they're tough numbers to look at, and we need to do much more than we already are doing to stop the violence," said Colleen Daley, the executive director of the IL Council Against Handgun Violence.

Chicago native and Yale professor Andrew Papachristos believes Chicago’s shootings are contagious and should be treated like a disease.

He and his team looked at a group of nearly 140,000 people in Chicago over the course of 8 years. About 10 percent were gunshot victims, all with an arrest record. The study found shooting victims were almost twice as likely to know another victim, and that many were shot within an average of four months of each other, thus spreading like an illness.

"Absolutely it's a public health issue we have to look at it that way and treat it that way," Daley said.

"The way that health workers treat Ebola or cholera these are the health workers that treat violence," said Dr. Gary Slutkin of Cure Violence. "You need to talk to the people who are about to do it. And cool them down. These are very highly trained people"

The new JAMA study suggests a similar approach, but with more focus on the potential victims as opposed to the offenders, and outreach for those in dangerous social networks.

"This is not ok. We as a city need to do a lot better, we as a country and state need to do a lot better," Daley said.