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Ebola vs. AIDS: A look at key differences

Ebola is similar to the HIV/AIDS virus in some ways, but in others, it differs.

a HelloMD infographic comparing and contrasting the Ebola virus with the HIV/AIDS virus. Photo: HelloMD. a HelloMD infographic comparing and contrasting the Ebola virus with the HIV/AIDS virus. Photo: HelloMD.

Recently the head of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Tom Frieden, said “the only thing like this [Ebola outbreak] has been AIDS.”

The total number of Ebola cases in West Africa during this recent outbreak has topped 8,000, according to the CDC. Over 4,000 deaths have been reported. Former CDC Acting Director, Dr. Richard Besser says that Ebola is similar to the HIV/AIDS virus in some ways, but in others, it differs.

An obvious way the viruses are similar–they are spread through blood and other bodily fluids and also have high fatality rates. There have been no approved vaccines developed to prevent the two viruses, both of which originate in Africa.

Besser warns that the international community needs to address the issue and its risks and understand that any disease can easily become everyone’s problem, “…many people are [acting like] that’s just an African problem, this is a problem that we don’t have to jump on board. It’s something that someone else will take care of.”

In that manner, he explains, Ebola and AIDS are similar catastrophes. The international community will certainly have to act in order to help these West African countries, since they do not have the capabilities to do so independently.

Ebola vs. AIDS: How they differ


-A key point in the difference between AIDS and Ebola is their visibility and latency.

-AIDS, or the virus that causes it, HIV, is more of a silent, unseen killer that has a long latency period. The global community did not immediately see the deadly effects of HIV or AIDS, but they do see the ghastly, short-term effects and quick-acting symptoms of Ebola.

-The symptoms of the HIV virus can be latent for months and even years.

-Ebola, on the other hand, has no latency period. Ebola has an incubation period of two to 21 days, more commonly presenting symptoms between 8-10 days of infection. Since Ebola shows extreme outward symptoms, it is easier to identify who is infected and how to isolate them and thus contain the virus.

-With HIV, many will not even know they are infected until years down the road, after they may have unknowingly infected others.

The Ebola symptoms? Vomiting, diarrhea, fever, profuse bleeding, etc. This in itself could possibly be the necessary evil to a global realization and subsequent action in the fight against Ebola.

 A HelloMD infographic detailing where Ebola has made its mark during the current outbreak. Photo: HelloMD A HelloMD infographic detailing where Ebola has made its mark during the current outbreak. Photo: HelloMD

The message that the global community should take from comparing AIDS and Ebola is that the health of all human beings is globally connected. No matter how large or small the risk, every country faces the threat of Ebola until the outbreak has been completely stopped or it has run its course and “burned itself out,” whichever comes first.

Blog contributed by HelloMD, www.hellomd.com.

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