Photo Credit: TIME
The 2014 Ebola epidemic is the largest in history, and took over headlines as it spread from West Africa to Europe and the United States.
Time magazine has recognized the incredible risky yet brave efforts of Ebola fighters by naming them 2014's Person of the Year.
Time's editor Nancy Gibbs announced the pick on NBC's Today show on Wednesday, then revealed multiple versions of the cover... each highlighting a different Ebola fighter. Those featured included Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly, Dr. Jerry Brown, nurse aide and survivor Salome Karwah, MSF volunteer health promoter Ella Watson-Stryker, and ambulance team supervisor and survivor Foday Galla.
The Ebola fighters were selected as Person of the Year "because this was the worst outbreak in history and while officials were in denial and very slow to respond these men and women did a hard and dangerous work of treating patients and protecting the rest of us," Gibbs said.
In Gibbs' piece explaining the choice, she detailed how harsh this year's ebola crisis has been.
"This time 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. One August day in Liberia, six pregnant women lost their babies when hospitals couldn’t admit them for complications. Anyone willing to treat Ebola victims ran the risk of becoming one."
Brantly, medical missions adviser for Samaritan's Purse and the first American to contract the virus, said on Today it was "just a huge honor" to be included.
He added that it's fitting, and we see it as pertinent, to "acknowledge that most Ebola fighters and certainly those who paid the highest price for their service are themselves West Africans."
Gibbs noted in her piece what kept these "heroes" going, saying "some talk about God; some about country; some about the instinct to run into the fire, not away."
Ebola continues to ravage West Africa, with most recent cases being reported in Nigeria and a single case in Senegal. However, the cases are reportedly contained with no further spread in the countries. The front lines of the ebola epidemic have been fought by doctors, nurses, ambulance drivers, first responders and sometimes ordinary citizens, all working hard to keep it from spreading.
"This is not simply a historic event that we’re looking back on, but its’ still happening right now," Brantly said. "Ebola fighters are not just people who did something brave and courageous, they are still in the trenches fighting that war as we speak."
Last year's Person of the Year was Pope Francis (third time a Pope was featured on the list), given the honor for shifting the message of the Catholic Church from one of doctrine to one of service.
Other contenders for this year were: Russian President Vladimir Putin, Taylor Swift, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, Apple CEO Tim Cook and Ferguson protesters.
The Person of the Year (can be person or group) is chosen by who, according to Time editors, had the biggest impact on news during the year, positive or negative.
Past recipients have included President Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008, Mahatma Gandhi, Marck Zuckerberg, Winston Churchill, Adolf Hitler, John F. Kennedy, and "You."