For $34 (plus $5.49 shipping), you can purchase a personal protective kit on Amazon that will probably do nothing to protect you against Ebola.
Fortunately, there hasn't been an Ebola outbreak in the U.S., and your chances of catching it—even without the kit—are virtually zero. But that hasn't stopped sales of this kind of equipment from skyrocketing in the past month.
Sales of the kit—which includes a full-body suit, eye protection, two surgical masks, two pairs of gloves, booties, and duct tape—jumped 393 percent on Amazon following the diagnosis of the first Ebola case in New York City on Thursday evening. Sales of one body suit skyrocketed 131,000 percent in 24 hours after the diagnosis of the first Ebola patient in the U.S. on Oct. 1, according to CNBC.
The attempt to make money off of panic surrounding new disease outbreaks is nothing new: The H1N1 outbreak in 2009 resulted in the sale of products like "Tamiflu" pills from India and "magic wands," while the SARS epidemic in 2003 led companies to hike the price of face masks.
"[What we're seeing with Ebola] fits into previous outbreaks," said Thomas Bollyky, global health, economics, and development senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. "The necessary ingredients to this type of profiteering are twofold: panic and novelty. In times of uncertainty, people search out information, and if they're still nervous, they'll search it out from unconventional sources, which is what's happening here."