#BBCtrending: Ebola Halloween costume: humour or horror?

A website selling an "Ebola containment suit costume" for $79.99 Image copyright Brands on Sale

Almost 30,000 people have taken to social media this month to debate whether Ebola-themed Halloween costumes, be they home-made or store-bought, are a great idea or yet another indication of society's moral decay.

Brands on Sale is advertising the "Ebola containment suit costume, a kit that includes a protective bodysuit, goggles and breathing mask. Johnathon Weeks, the company's vice president, says they sold about two dozen on Wednesday and expect to move well over a thousand by the end of the month.

"This is an Ebola containment healthcare worker costume; it's not the Ebola disease costume; it's not an Ebola victim costume," says Mr Weeks. "It's no different in my eyes than what a firefighter costume would be, or doctors and nurses costume. Those people save lives every day, just like these people are."

Making light of tragedy is a common way people cope with their greatest fears, according to Penn State Altoona Prof Jerry Zolten, who teaches a class in stand-up comedy. It's also an easy way to get a big reaction.

Image copyright Twitter

"Some people delight in shocking their friends and are among the first to tell jokes about things that are putting fear in everybody's minds," Zolten says.

He says a joke like this can be a way to deal with stress.

"It's well known that people who are in high-risk jobs - ambulance workers, people who see horrible things all the time - will joke about it amongst themselves right there on the job, as needed."

He cautions, however, that this doesn't always extend to the general public.

Image copyright Twitter

Indeed, for many online, donning an Ebola-themed Halloween costume seems like a callous way to approach a serious situation.

Chances are that the appearance of trick-or-treater or Halloween partygoer dressed in a bio-hazard suit will cause more unease than laughter, as similarly-clad healthcare workers scramble to deal with a disease that has left thousands dead in Western Africa.

Reporting by Micah Luxen

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