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Time's person of the year: the Ebola fighters

Time magazine's 2014 person of the year: the Ebola fighters.
Time magazine's 2014 person of the year: the Ebola fighters.

Near the end of every year, the editors at Time magazine wade through their coverage and pick the most influential newsmaker for their "person of the year" cover. The choice is often controversial, viewed as a mixture of a public-relations stunt and political theater.

But this year, few will question the pick for — as their criteria goes — the "person or persons who most affected the news and our lives, for good or ill, and embodied what was important about the year."

In 2014, it's the Ebola fighters who put their lives on the line to help stop the spread of a very deadly disease.

On Wednesday, Time shared multiple versions of the issue's cover, which will each highlight a different caregiver: from the American Ebola survivor and doctor Kent Brantly, to an MSF volunteer health promoter, and an ambulance team supervisor.

According to the magazine, a Liberian, Dr. Jerry Brown, will be featured on the first of five covers shot for the special issue. Brown was the mastermind behind Liberia's first Ebola treatment center, opening it up in early 2014 at a time when it seemed the world was standing by and watching a slow car crash.

The Ebola fighters beat the likes of Vladimir Putin, Taylor Swift, and even the Ferguson protesters. But Time's editor Nancy Gibbs wrote that the choice was clear:

"2014 is the year an outbreak turned into an epidemic... It reached crowded slums in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone; it traveled to Nigeria and Mali, to Spain, Germany and the U.S. It struck doctors and nurses in unprecedented numbers, wiping out a public-health infrastructure that was weak in the first place."

"Ebola is a war, and a warning. 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. For tireless acts of courage and mercy, for buying the world time to boost its defenses, for risking, for persisting, for sacrificing and saving, the Ebola fighters are Time’s 2014 Person of the Year."

To date, this is the world's worst Ebola outbreak and the first-ever epidemic. More than 17,000 people have been sickened by Ebola and more than 6,000 have died.

Health-care workers face more than 100 times the risk of catching the disease. To date, according to the World Health Organization, more than 600 health-care workers have been infected by the virus and, of them, 346 have died.