Outbreak boosts sales of Ebola stuffed animals, jewelry

DETROIT – It's no Tickle Me Elmo, but a plush Ebola toy is actually a lot harder to find these days.

As worldwide concern about Ebola has grown, it seems so has the market for Ebola merchandise featuring the virus' distinctive worm-like body.

The latest check of Amazon.com finds all but the largest size of the Ebola plush toys are sold out.  They retail for $9.95 to $29.95, depending on the size.  As of this writing, there were only two of the "giant" ones left. 

Stuffed animals are just one option.  On Etsy, you can find an Ebola cross stitch for $19.99, an Ebola pendant for $7.75 with matching earrings for $15.50 and an "I Survived Ebola" I-shirt for $18.

While some items may be capitalizing on the recent outbreak, others have actually been on the market for quite a while.  The Ebola cross stitch is part of a larger offering of "science art" including various viruses and bacteria targeted at people who work in the health sciences.

GIANTmicrobes has sold Ebola plush toys since 2005 and an Ebola putty toy since 2012, along with a full line of other microorganisms.  The company says it has seen an increase in sales since the virus began to spread in West Africa.  

While some may be purchased as gag gifts or curiosities, GIANTmicrobes says most of their orders come from research companies, parents and public schools to be used in educational programs.

Education and art aside, is it in poor taste to sell Ebola merchandise?   Share your thoughts in the comments below or on our Local 4 Facebook page.