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At the CDC, many diseases are squeezable

ATLANTA — At last, a common cold that feels good to catch.

In a rather sparse and sterile gift shop at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at least a few items are eye-catchers: the stuffed toys.

But look not for a fluffy bear, a plush puppy or cuddly kitten.

Instead, these toys are the pinnacle of public health humor in a shop serving mostly CDC employees and guests. For $7.95, one can pick up a non-communicable version of everything from Ebola to the H1N1 virus, syphilis to HIV and more.

Pathologist Liz Lence recently picked up some warm fuzzy diseases, made by Giant Microbes, for her nieces and nephews. For the boys, a yellow West Nile virus will do, while the girls will receive the kissing disease -- a round, pink toy with big eyes.

"They're hilarious, especially for people like us. We're science nerds," Lence said, adding that she was at the CDC with a group of scientists for a convention. "Yesterday there was a sperm."

The gift shop is run by SHARE Inc., a 50-year-old non-profit that benefits CDC employees. A spokesperson for SHARE couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

To see the stuffed toys, check out www.giantmicrobes.com.

Katie Leslie writes for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. E-mail: kleslie(at)ajc.com.