Difference between Ebola virus and HIV virus

Key Difference: Both originated in Africa, and are carried by host animals. The Ebola virus directly attack any and all cell that it come in to contact with, whereas the HIV virus does not attack any cell, but instead disables the immune system allowing other infections to take root.
While cases of Ebola have been documented for as long back as 1976, its outbreak has been limited. Its first outbreak was in 1976 in Sudan and Democratic Republic of the Congo. Following sporadic outbreaks, its biggest outbreak to date occurred in 2014 in West Africa. After this outbreak and the widespread panic that it created, Ebola was compared to the HIV virus by many people. 
First and foremost, both are viruses, and both originated in Africa, but went on to spread internationally. However, Ebola is fairly isolated, as compared to HIV and the number of cases affected by Ebola is much less than HIV. As of 2012, approximately 35.3 million people are living with HIV globally, whereas Ebola had 1,716 cases in 24 outbreaks until 2013. The 2014 West Africa epidemic had 13,567 reported cases of Ebola up until 29 October 2014, resulting in 4,960 deaths.
Both are carried by host animals, fruit bats in the case of Ebola and non-human primates in the case of HIV. They were then transmitted to humans, and both may have made that transition when hunters ate bush meat. Additionally, neither Ebola nor HIV has a vaccine or cure. The best is that you can treat the symptoms of the diseases, but both are deadly if left untreated.
Furthermore, both are spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as blood, semen, breast milk, etc. However, Ebola can also be spread through urine, saliva, sweat, feces, and vomit, making it faster and easier to spread than HIV. Although these fluids must come into contact with broken skin or mucous membranes, such as the eyes, nose, or mouth, in order to infect another person.
Moreover, HIV has a longer latency period than Ebola. A person infected with HIV may not show any symptoms at all for up to 10 years, but still be able to infect others. Whereas a person infected with Ebola will likely show symptoms between 6 and 21 days, and the symptoms must be present in order for the person to transmit the virus. Also, while it possible to live a long and fairly healthy life with HIV, Ebola is know to kill between 25% and 90% of its victims. 
The Ebola virus and the HIV virus also differ in the manner that they attack the patient. The Ebola virus directly attack any and all cell that it come in to contact with, whereas the HIV virus does not attack any cell, but instead disables the immune system allowing other infections to take root. 
Furthermore, the HIV virus is very apt at mutating. A patient who dies from AIDS may have multiple strains of the same virus, whereas, the Ebola virus does not mutated very easily. In fact, the strains of the virus which were isolated in the 1976 Bumba outbreaks and the 1995 Kikwit outbreaks are very similar in structure even though they were separated by 19 years and 1,800 kilometers. 
Comparison between Ebola virus and HIV Virus:


Ebola virus

HIV virus

Related Illnesses

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

Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS)


A severe and often fatal hemorrhagic fever in humans and other mammals, known as Ebola virus disease (EVD).

A condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive.


A virus of the family Filoviridae, genus Ebolavirus.


Five types of viruses:

  • 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 lentivirus; subgroup of retrovirus.


Two main types of viruses:

  • HIV type 1 (HIV-1)
  • HIV type 2 (HIV-2)

First Discovered

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

First clinically observed in 1981 in the United States. However dates back to 1920s in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Natural Hosts

Fruit bats of the Pteropodidae family

HIV-1 is related to viruses found in chimpanzees and gorillas living in western Africa, while HIV-2 viruses are related to viruses found in the endangered west African primate sooty mangabey.


  • 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.
  • Transfer of blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, or breast milk.
  • From mother to child during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding (known as vertical transmission).

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

2 to 21 days. Cannot spread the

Up to 10 years.

Mode of Action

Ebola physically destroys every cell it comes into contact with.

HIV does not kill directly. It disables the immune system, allowing for the invasion of other diseases.

Mutation Ability

Does not mutate rapidly. Is fairly consistent.

HIV virus mutates rapidly, which gives it a high genetic variability,


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

There are three main stages of HIV infection: acute infection, clinical latency and AIDS.


  • Acute infection: fever, large tender lymph nodes, throat inflammation, a rash, headache, and/or sores of the mouth and genitals. May include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, peripheral neuropathy or Guillain-Barre syndrome.


  • Clinical latency: fever, weight loss, gastrointestinal problems, muscle pains and lymphadenopathy.


  • AIDS: pneumocystis pneumonia , cachexia in the form of HIV wasting syndrome, esophageal candidiasis, and respiratory tract infections. Systemic symptoms such as prolonged fevers, sweats (particularly at night), diarrhea, swollen lymph nodes, chills, weakness, and weight loss. Increased risk of developing Kaposi's sarcoma, Burkitt's lymphoma, primary central nervous system lymphoma and cervical cancer.


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 made using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to detect antibodies to HIV-1.


If positive, it is followed by Western blot or, less commonly, an immunofluorescence assay (IFA).


Only considered HIV positive if both tests are positive.


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

Treatment consists of high active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) which slows progression of the disease. Treatment also includes preventive and active treatment of opportunistic infections.

Survival time without treatment

Typically six to sixteen days after symptoms appear and is often due to low blood pressure from fluid loss.

Without treatment, average survival time after infection with HIV is estimated to be 9 to 11 years, depending on the HIV subtype.

Image Courtesy: ebolastories.wordpress.com

Image Courtesy: aids.gov

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