For just $9.95, you can give someone Ebola.
A soft toy company in the United States has been run off its feet selling plush Ebola toys as the disease has ravaged West Africa, killing 4,500 people.
Last week, the virus killed a man in Dallas, TX, and two nurses who cared for him have since contracted the infection.
While world leaders grapple to contain the Ebola crisis, a website called Giant Microbes is selling what it describes as a “fearsome front-page disease” in soft toy form.
The Ebola toy is being marketed as a “uniquely contagious gag gift.”
“Since its discovery in 1976, Ebola has become the T. Rex of microbes. Share the love!” an advertisement on the website reads.
The Ebola toy, which looks like a curly brown worm with a cat’s eye, is an exact replica of a microscopic image of the virus.
Who would want to buy the giant and ugly soft toy during the largest Ebola epidemic in history?
Thousands of people, apparently.
Laura Sullivan, the vice president of marketing at Giant Microbes, told the Star the Ebola toy was in hot demand.
The company is out of stock worldwide, she said.
Since the deadly 2014 epidemic began, Giant Microbes has fielded a huge increase in sales for the toys from the U.S., Canada, Europe and other parts of the world.
“We get it in and sell out in a few days,” Sullivan said.
But, buyers need not worry — the company is “making it as fast as we can” and another batch is due next week.
Giant Microbes was established about a decade ago to “bring the invisible microscopic world to life.”
It offers more than 100 plush microbe toys for sale, ranging in everything from HIV and herpes to breast cancer or the common cold.
Every soft toy comes packaged with information to encourage education about the diseases.
The giant microbe creatures were often purchased as tangible teaching tools by parents, pediatricians and even high school teachers and college professors, Sullivan said.
“Microbes have a huge impact on our lives. People want to learn about them and understand them,” she said.
“With Ebola and everything that is going on, people are interested about learning more and this product provides a way for people to learn about it.”
The Ebola toy has been around for about five years now and Sullivan said it had always been a good seller.
“Sales are exceptionally high now because so many more people want to learn about it,” she said.
Sullivan conceded some may question Giant Microbes’ marketing tactics for the Ebola line.
In the past, some of the soft toys have been purchased as “gag gifts,” she said.
College students were known to have wrapped up giant herpes toys and handed them out as a joke on Valentine’s Day, she said.
“I think that we have a responsibility to market Ebola very responsibly. Anyone putting out a product around sensitive issues has a responsibility to market the product sensitively and responsibly,” she said.
“People are buying it to talk about it and if we ever felt it was being used inappropriately, we would reconsider it.”
Giant Microbes has never received any negative feedback or complaints about its toys, she said.