Difference between Ebola and Bubonic Plague

Key Difference: Ebola and the Bubonic Plague are two completely different diseases but ones that are capable of creating an epidemic and cause widespread havoc. Ebola is caused by one of the five different types of ebolavirus, whereas the bubonic plague is caused by the Yersinia pestis.
Ebola and the Bubonic Plague are two completely different diseases but ones that are capable of creating an epidemic and cause widespread havoc. The 2014 outbreak of Ebola in West Africa is its biggest outbreak to date and has caused 13,567 reported cases resulting in 4,960 deaths by 29th October, 2014. However, the largest Bubonic Plague outbreak was the pandemic in the Late Middle Ages known as the Black Death. The Black Death resulted in an estimated 25 million deaths, or 30–60% of the European population.
 
Ebola is caused by one of the five different types of ebolavirus, whereas the bubonic plague is caused by the Yersinia pestis, which is capable of causing three different types of plagues: pneumonic, septicemic, and bubonic. The bubonic plague kills about two thirds of its infected humans within four days if they do no receive prompt treatment as soon as they start showing symptoms, which can appear very suddenly within 2 to 5 days of being exposed to the bacteria.
 
The symptoms of the bubonic plague include chills, general ill feeling, high fever, muscle cramps, seizures, swelling, and changes in skin color. Other symptoms include heavy breathing, continuous vomiting of blood, aching limbs, coughing, and extreme pain, as well as fatigue, gastrointestinal problems, black dots scattered throughout the body, delirium, and coma. However, the characteristic symptom of the bubonic plague is the development of buboes (smooth, painful lymph gland swellings) in the armpits, upper femoral, groin and neck region. The patient may also suffer gangrene of the extremities such as toes, fingers, lips and tip of the nose, causing the skin to slow die and turn black; hence the name the black death.
 
Ebola, on the other hand, causes fever, sore throat, muscle pain, and headaches. This escalates to vomiting, diarrhea and a rash, as well as impaired kidney and liver function. In some cases, patients show both internal and external bleeding, such as oozing from the gums, or blood in the stools. This eventually culminates to death between six to sixteen days of contracting the disease.
 
Another difference between the bubonic plague and Ebola is the manner in which it is transmitted. Ebola can be spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, breast milk, etc., as well as through contact with the infected persons urine, saliva, sweat, feces, and vomit. However, the bubonic plague can be only spread through the bite of the rat flea. If the bubonic plague is treated in time, then the risk of death is between 1% and 15%; however if untreated then the risk is between 40% and 60%. Whereas, Ebola kills between 25% and 90% of its victims. 
 
Comparison between Ebola and Bubonic Plague:
 

 

Ebola

Bubonic Plague

Known as

Ebola virus disease (EVD), Ebola hemorrhagic fever (EHF)

Black Death, Black Plague, La Peste, Pestilential Fever

Caused by

A virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus:

  • Ebola virus (Zaire ebolavirus)
  • Sudan virus (Sudan ebolavirus)
  • Taï Forest virus (Taï Forest ebolavirus, formerly Côte d’Ivoire ebolavirus)
  • Bundibugyo virus (Bundibugyo ebolavirus)
  • Reston virus (Reston ebolavirus) (only in nonhuman primates)

A bacteria called as Yersinia pestis (formerly known as Pasteurella pestis), that belongs to the family Enterobacteriaceae.

First Discovered

In 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The first recorded epidemic was the Plague of Justinian that ravaged the Byzantine Empire during the sixth century.

Natural Hosts

Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family

Rats, but is spread by fleas from one host to another

Transmission

  • Close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals
  • Human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids.
  • Resulting from the bite of an infected flea, Xenopsylla cheopis (the rat flea).
  • In very rare circumstances, the disease can be transmitted by direct contact with infected tissue or exposure to the cough of another human.

Incubation period (the time interval from infection with the virus to onset of symptoms)

2 to 21 days

Less than 2 days.

Symptoms

Fever, fatigue, muscle pain, headache and sore throat. Followed by vomiting, diarrhoea, rash, symptoms of impaired kidney and liver function, and in some cases, both internal and external bleeding.

  • Gangrene of the extremities such as toes, fingers, lips and tip of the nose.
  • Chills
  • General ill feeling (malaise)
  • High fever (39 °C; 102 °F)
  • Muscle cramps
  • Seizures
  • Smooth, painful lymph gland swelling called a bubo, commonly found in the groin, but may occur in the armpits or neck, most often at the site of the initial infection (bite or scratch)
  • Pain may occur in the area before the swelling appears
  • Skin color changes to a pink hue in some very extreme cases
  • heavy breathing
  • continuous vomiting of blood (hematemesis)
  • aching limbs
  • coughing
  • extreme pain
  • extreme fatigue
  •  gastrointestinal problems
  • lenticulae (black dots scattered throughout the body)
  • delirium
  • coma

Diagnosis

Confirmation is made using the following investigations:

  • antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA)
  • antigen-capture detection tests
  • serum neutralization test
  • reverse transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) assay
  • electron microscopy
  • virus isolation by cell culture.

Confirmation is through the identification of Y. pestis culture from examining the serum taken from the patient during the early and late stages of infection.

Treatment

Rehydration with oral or intravenous fluids- and treatment of specific symptoms, improves rate of survival.

Antibiotics such as such as streptomycin and gentamicin, tetracyclines (especially doxycycline), and the fluoroquinolone ciprofloxacin. Other treatments include oxygen, intravenous fluids, and respiratory support.

Image Courtesy: outsidethebeltway.com, turbosquid.com

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