Political leaders, the Pope, even the founder of a successful social media platform have made the annual list. But this year's Time Person of the Year is a group of people who risked their lives to save others from a worldwide deadly virus epidemic: Healthcare workers on the Ebola response frontlines.
The magazine named the Ebola fighters as the group of people who have done the most to influence the events of 2014.
The deadly virus "struck doctors and nurses in unprecedented numbers, wiping out a public-health infrastructure that was weak in the first place," wrote Time Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs. "Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one."
Indeed, the World Health Organization reports that 6,631 people have died due to Ebola and there are 17,800 documented cases of people--hundreds of them healthcare workers--who contracted the deadly virus in the worst outbreak in history.
"Ebola is a war, and a warning," Gibbs wrote. "The global health system is nowhere close to strong enough to keep us safe from infectious disease, and 'us' means everyone, not just those in faraway places where this is one threat among many that claim lives every day. The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight."
The magazine editors chose the Ebola healthcare workers as its "Person of the Year" for their "tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving."
Meanwhile, in an editorial published online today in the International Journal of Epidemiology, experts from the Departments of Psychiatry and Epidemiology at Columbia University, New York, urge the mobilization of Ebola survivors to contain the virus. These survivors, they say, have developed an immunity to the current strain of Ebola and should receive training so they can care for those infected with the illness with little to no risk of reinfection.
"In a sense, survivors are the only people in the world who are 'vaccinated' against further Ebola infection with the strain in circulation," they wrote. "This uniquely positions them to mediate between the infected and uninfected and between local people and foreign responders."
The survivors can also donate their blood because their antibodies might protect others and help those infected survive, the researchers say.
In the United States, no new travelers from West Africa have arrived with Ebola, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Officials screened nearly 2,000 travelers at airports in October and November. Eighty-six of those travelers were referred to the CDC for evaluation and of that group, only seven had possible symptoms. None was diagnosed with Ebola.
In other Ebola news, a Rutgers New Jersey Medical School scientist is collaborating with a California diagnostic company to create an easier and faster Ebola test, Newsworks reports. The National Institutes of Health gave David Alland, M.D., a $640,000 grant to develop the 30-minute, lab-free way to detect the virus.
Current methods are problematic because of the time needed to get blood samples to a testing facility. It can takes weeks to get the results back to patients.