Ebola has dominated hard news headlines since its deadly outbreak in West Africa this year, but the infectious disease also has a soft, cuddly side.
Ebola toys and other merchandise tempt online shoppers
Giantmicrobes, a 12-year-old company based in Stamford, Conn., creates plush toys based directly on the microscopic images of various pathogens. And over at e-commerce site Etsy, which features handmade items, there's an array of Ebola merchandise for sale. You choose from a variety of products featuring an image of the Ebola virus, including a cross-stitch pattern, earrings, pendants, pins and glassware, as well as a number of T-shirts with serious or satirical messages. Some Etsy shops donate proceeds to Ebola relief. The stuffed playthings at Giantmicrobes range from pneumonia and the common cold to a brain-eating amoeba, the plague and syphilis. Ebola made its way into the product line about 10 years ago.
The toys also include tags that detail basic information about each disease, and the company works with physicians and researchers to vet the tags' facts. “The idea was to create these things to be able to talk to kids about what's going on in their bodies,” said Laura Sullivan, vice president of Giantmicrobes. “We've put a lot of care into not just making fuzzy things and calling them germs.”With Ebola now dominating national conversation, supply can't keep up with demand, Sullivan said. The cushy Ebola toy, which sells for $9.95, has sold out with thousands of orders placed. The company is still taking orders online, but it won't be able to ship more products until the middle of November. Early results show most of the people buying the Ebola toys are doing so for educational purposes, Sullivan said.
Parents, teachers and pediatricians represent the company's primary business, but many state health departments are investing in the Ebola toys for training. “It helps make it a little more understandable and concrete,” she said.
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