Time magazine has named its "Person of the Year 2014" the healthcare workers treating the Ebola epidemic, which has killed more than 6,300 people worldwide.

The magazine announced on Wednesday that it had chosen to honour doctors, nurses and others fighting the spread of the virus through "tireless acts of courage and mercy".

Editor Nancy Gibbs praised "the people in the field, the special forces of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières [MSF], the Christian medical-relief workers of Samaritan's Purse and many others from all over the world who fought side by side with local doctors and nurses, ambulance drivers and burial teams."

"The rest of the world can sleep at night because a group of men and women are willing to stand and fight,'' Gibbs wrote.

The hemorrhagic fever developed from an outbreak into an epidemic in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, and there have been scattered cases in Nigeria, Mali, Spain, Germany and the United States.

The White House welcomed the award as a tribute to the "heroism and selflessness" of countless healthcare workers.

"The administration, including the president, could not be prouder of the brave men and women who've committed themselves to this effort in a foreign land," said spokesman Josh Earnest.

'Great recognition'

Antoine Petibon, head of international programmes for the French Red Cross, which has been active in anti-Ebola efforts in the French-speaking country of Guinea, called it "great recognition for all these people who have been toiling in the shadows".

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"If it helps us wipe out this epidemic faster, all the better,'' Petibon added.

The runners-up chosen by Time were protesters who took to the streets in the St Louis suburb of Ferguson to condemn the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown by a white police officer.

Also shortlisted were Russian President Vladimir Putin, Massoud Barzani, president of Iraq's Kurdistan region, and China's richest man Jack Ma, founder of e-commerce giant Alibaba.

Henry Gray, MSF operations coordinator for the Ebola response in Guinea and Liberia, said: "We are happy for this recognition but will be even happier when the last Ebola treatment centre is closed and the crisis is declared over."

Pope Francis was last year's Time person of the year.

On Tuesday, the UN Ebola special envoy, David Nabarro, welcomed widespread progress in the fight against the virus, but warned cases were still surging in western Sierra Leone and northern Guinea.

He called for more foreign health workers and specialists in areas where the disease was still spreading quickly, as well as more treatment units and beds.

Source: Agencies