What is the difference between Covid-19 and the Ebola virus?

Both viruses are highly contagious and can cause severe illness, but there are some key differences between them.

What is the difference between Covid-19 and the Ebola virus?
An image of the pathogen that causes Ebola virus disease

Covid-19 and Ebola are two very different viruses. Covid-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified in 2019. Ebola, on the other hand, is a much older virus that was first identified in 1976. Both viruses are highly contagious and can cause severe illness, but there are some key differences between them.

How is the virus that causes Covid-19 different from Ebola?

Covid-19 is an infectious disease caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The majority of people infected with the virus will experience mild to moderate respiratory illness and will recover without the need for special treatment. However, some people will develop serious illnesses and will require medical attention. Older people and those with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, chronic respiratory disease, or cancer are more likely to develop serious illnesses. Anyone can get sick with COVID-19 and become seriously ill or die at any age.

Ebola virus disease is a serious and deadly illness that affects humans and primates. The Ebola virus causes the disease, which is spread through contact with an infected person's blood or body fluids. Early symptoms of EVD include fever, muscle pain, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, and internal and external bleeding. Death typically occurs 6-16 days after symptoms appear. There is no specific treatment for Ebola at this time; however early diagnosis and supportive care can improve the chances of survival.

What are the differences between Covid-19 symptoms and Ebola symptoms?

COVID-19 affects people in different ways, with most developing mild to moderate illness and recovering without hospitalization. The most common symptoms are fever, cough, and tiredness, but some people may also experience a sore throat, headache, aches, and pains, diarrhea, a rash on the skin, or red or irritated eyes. In more serious cases, people may have difficulty breathing, loss of speech or mobility, or chest pain.

Symptoms of EVD can be sudden and include fever, fatigue, muscle, pain, headache, and sore throat. This is followed by vomiting, diarrhea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases internal and external bleeding (e.g. oozing from the gums, and blood in the stools). Laboratory findings include low white blood cell and platelet counts and elevated liver enzymes. It can be difficult to clinically distinguish EVD from other infectious diseases such as malaria, typhoid fever, and meningitis. A range of diagnostic tests has been developed to confirm the presence of the virus.

Early diagnosis and treatment of EVD are essential for the best possible outcome. There is no specific treatment for EVD.

Ebola is spread in a different way than Covid-19

Covid is a virus that is spread through the air and can cause severe respiratory illness. It is important to practice good respiratory etiquette, such as coughing into your elbow and staying home, and self-isolate if you feel unwell. The WHO adds:

Protect yourself and others from infection by staying at least 1 metre apart from others, wearing a properly fitted mask, and washing your hands or using an alcohol-based rub frequently. Get vaccinated when it’s your turn and follow local guidance.

The Ebola virus is spread through human-to-human transmission. This can happen through contact with the blood or body fluids of a person who is sick with Ebola, or with objects that have been contaminated with these fluids. Ebola is also spread through burial ceremonies that involve direct contact with the body of a person who has died from Ebola. People with Ebola are infectious as long as their blood contains the virus.

Is it possible for Ebola to spread out of Africa?
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Ebola is far more deadly than Covid-19

Ebola is a virus with a high fatality rate, averaging 50%. However, case fatality rates have varied in the past, from 25% to 90%. Early supportive care with rehydration, and symptomatic treatment improves survival. Two monoclonal antibodies (Inmazeb and Ebanga) were approved for the treatment of Zaire ebolavirus (Ebolavirus) infection in adults and children by the US Food and Drug Administration in late 2020.

The current strain of Ebola is the Sudan strain, for which there is no known vaccine.

In contrast, the case fatality rate for Covid is 1% for the general population, and 13% for the hospitalized population, rising to 37% for ICU patients. This is according to a JPMH study published in 2021.