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Ebola domain on sale for $150K: Good business or ghoulish?

Nicole Duignan

The Washington Post is calling Jon Schultz a “merchant of disease.” The Las Vegas businessman owns the domain name Ebola.com, and now he’s selling it for $150,000.

Schultz’s company, Blue String Ventures, reportedly purchased the domain name in 2008 for $13,500, and also owns other disease-related domain names such as birdflu.com and H1N1.com. Schultz is quoted as saying the site is getting 5,000 page-views a day and he thinks the price increase is more than fair.

Yahoo Finance editor in chief Aaron Task says, although distasteful, Schultz has the right to sell the domain name. “We live in a capitalistic society, he bought it legally and he’s trying to sell it legally…I don’t see what the outrage is about this.”

Schultz declined Yahoo Finance’s request for an interview and expressed his displeasure with the Washington Post article. In the comments section on the paper’s website, Schultz claims he was misquoted and refutes the idea that the domain name would somehow benefit the medical community, writing “It is just a domain name, not a miracle cure.”

The site itself is limited, featuring a link encouraging donations to Doctors Without Borders via their website. It has a few news articles posted to it but Task feels Schultz is missing an opportunity. “He could make this the news destination for Ebola stories, sell ads against it, and probably make a couple of thousand dollars, maybe not $150,000…if it’s about a money making venture, I think he’s thinking about it in too limited a way.”

Task believes that the government or a company such as hazmat suit makers Lakeland Industries could potentially benefit from owing this domain name; “No one calls Lakeland (LAKE) speculators ‘merchants of disease.’” he notes. Aiming to profit during a crisis is nothing new; companies such as Lockheed Martin (LMT) and Boeing (BA) make billions of dollars in profits in the business of war. “

A second healthcare worker in Dallas has been diagnosed with the Ebola Virus after providing care to Thomas Eric Duncan, who died from the disease last week. This is the second person-to-person transmission so far in the U.S.. Both are healthcare workers who were exposed caring for Duncan, who came to the US after contracting the disease. “To me the real outrage is that the Dallas nurses weren’t given the right instructions, that this guy was sitting in the emergency room for a long period of time and not quarantined” says Task.

The World Health Organization says over 8,000 people have likely been infected with the disease and over 4,000 to have died so far. The Center For Disease Control calls this Ebola Outbreak, which began in West Africa but has spread to seven counties, the largest in history.