Time magazine has chosen the health care workers who are on the front lines in the fight against Ebola as its “Person of the Year 2014,” the magazine announced on Wednesday.
The virus jumped from an outbreak to an epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and there have been scattered cases in Nigeria, Mali, Spain, Germany and the United States.
On Time’s website, editor Nancy Gibbs praises “the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritan's Purse and many others from all over the world” who “fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams.”
Gibbs noted that the disease also struck doctors and nurses.
“The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight,” she wrote.
“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,” Gibbs said.
The magazine applauded the medical relief teams, doctors and nurses as well as ambulance drivers and burial teams working in western Africa, where the outbreak has killed more than 6,300 people over the past year.
Runners-up in the yearly feature include the Ferguson, Missouri, protesters, Russian President Vladimir Putin, Iraq Kurdistan region President Massoud Barzani and Jack Ma, China’s richest man.
Time features five health care workers on its cover, including Dr. Jerry Brown, a Liberian surgeon; Salome Karwah, an Ebola survivor whose parents died from the disease; and Dr. Kent Brantly, an American missionary who became infected while in Liberia.
Brantly was flown to Emory University Hospitals in Atlanta for treatment in August.
Time chose Pope Francis as last year's “Person of the Year.”
Sierra Leone lockdown
Also Wednesday, a day after the Kono district, in eastern Sierra Leone, confirmed a record seven cases of Ebola in one day, officials in the region launched a two-week “lockdown,” hoping to halt the spread of the disease in the area.
The lockdown will last until Dec. 23, said Emmanuel Lebbie, a local official.
Lebbie said people can continue to move within the district, but no one will be allowed to enter or leave the district.
Earlier this year, a similar lockdown was held in the capital, Freetown, in a bid to stop the spread of Ebola. The virus has caused more than 1,500 deaths in the country.
On Tuesday, David Nabarro, who is organizing the United Nations' Ebola response, said he was pleased with progress in the fight against the deadly virus but warned the outbreak was still surging in western Sierra Leone and northern Guinea.
Meanwhile, the WHO began a two-day meeting in Geneva Wednesday, to discuss innovative solutions to restore health care systems in the three West African nations suffering the brunt of the Ebola outbreak.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan highlighted the importance of basic public health infrastructures, which have been badly damaged in countries like Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, since the outbreak erupted early this year.
"These three hardest-hit countries are among the poorest in the world. All three have only recently emerged from years of civil war and conflict, that let health infrastructures badly damaged or destroyed,” Chan said.
Some material for this report came from Reuters, AP and AFP.