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Gunshots, not flu, the real epidemic

A woman is given flu shot by medical offices Yaffe Ruden   Associates  New York January 10 2013.

A woman is given a flu shot by at the medical offices of Yaffe Ruden & Associates in New York on January 10, 2013. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that this year's flu season is expected to be one of the worst the country has seen in 10 years. AFP PHOTO / TIMOTHY A. CLARYTIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images

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Updated: February 15, 2013 6:13AM

To get it, or not to get it?

The flu is raging here and around the nation. The annual infectious invasion has revved up to new heights, sparking headlines about packed emergency rooms and incessant reminders: It’s not too late to get the “shot.”

In my household, that point of furious debate came to a head last week. I got it. He doesn’t get it.

My husband is appalled at the prospect of voluntarily getting a dead virus injected into his arm, in order to quash a live virus. “Bring it on,” he says. “What doesn’t kill you will make you stronger.”

I am appalled by that “old school” thinking. So weeks ago I headed for Walgreens and got mine. Medical experts say the flu shot works. My Mister has been warned: If you get it and send it my way, the dog house will be all made up and waiting for you. Bow wow.

Everybody’s talking about the flu, but it’s not a 21st century bubonic plague. Recent screaming headlines might suggest otherwise. “One Flu Over the Cuckoo’s Nest: Entire Country Suffering from Influenza,” bleated Vanity Fair Daily.

“With severe flu season under way, vaccine supply is running low,” from The Washington Post. Halfway across the world, the Guardian reported: “Boston flu outbreak prompts mayor to declare public health emergency.”

The hullabaloo left me wondering: If only America could marshal this much conversation and energy toward the real epidemic: urban gun violence.

The flu is a universal concern. On the bus, we glare sideways at the red-nosed sufferers. We veer from the coughers in the grocery line. We all run for the shots and angst at every nearby sneeze.

Yet in cities nationwide, families are dodging a very different, lethal kind of shots. In 2012, 506 souls were murdered in Chicago. Most of them were shot to death. Many of them were children.

Last week, the Illinois General Assembly couldn’t muster up the moxie to move proposed bans on lethal assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition clips.

Too many of us think the body count is someone else’s problem. The bloody gun warfare is in someone else’s neighborhood. Many believe that if they stay ensconced in their protected, middle-class enclaves, they can’t “catch” the murder and mayhem.

The tragic truth: “They” don’t care about “us.”

Why should they? It’s our disease and we need internal solutions. First, we have to acknowledge an endemic illness: black-on-black, Latino-on-Latino crime. For decades, we have allowed the gangs to take over our neighborhoods. We look outward, to police, government, the politicians, expecting them to come up with a cure. It’s our children who continue to die.

To inoculate us against this epidemic, we must take and demand responsibility for the illness. And acknowledge that everyone pays. Just tally up the costs: To families changed forever, exploding health-care costs, our criminal “justice” system.

With the flu, when someone sneezes, you can get away. In the ’hood, there’s nowhere to go.

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