The 1995 film Outbreak presents the fictional Motaba virus as a rapidly spreading and deadly virus originating from the Democratic Republic of Congo with the first discovery in 1967. It is fairly obvious that the Motaba virus although fictional is based on the Marburg/Ebola virus.

Although there are several direct references to the Marburg/Ebola virus, the made-up Motaba virus has some key differences. This comparison between the real Ebola Virus and the artistic interpretation in “Outbreak” is a great way to see the references and where Hollywood had a hand in the scripting.

Trait/Action Ebola 2014 (Real) Motaba (Outbreak Fictional)
Incubation Period 10-21 Days ~24 hours
Origin/First Discovery “Zaire” 1976 “Zaire” 1967
Mortality Rate 50-90% 100%
Key Symptoms “Typical” hemorrhagic fever “Typical” hemorrhagic fever
Vaccine/Cure None (Vaccine in Trials) Original Strain Only
Transmission Methods Fluids with Possible Aerosol 2nd Strain Airborne
Historical Outbreaks 33 2


Hollywood took a few liberties most notably increasing the mortality rate to 100% and adding airborne transmission to the 1995 strain of Motaba but many traits are shared between the two viruses and several of the scenes are portrayed in a reasonably accurate way. We do not see too many pictures of Ebola Victims appearing on Facebook or Twitter in 2014 for several reasons, most importantly the cultural beliefs we share around the dead in Africa. The few photos that have made their way onto the Internet certainly remind us of the fictional Motaba depictions in “Outbreak” but it should be remembered that Hollywood is paid to entertain us while a virus has no such agenda or ideology.

Ebola Real vs Motabe Outbreak Film

Ebola Real vs Motaba Outbreak Film

Curing a virus is no small task and Ebola, which has a rapid mutation rate and many opportunities to develop immunity is no different. In retrospect the 1995 Outbreak Film detracted from reality with simplistic solutions to the challenge of an epidemic. However, the reality we face in 2014 is far more dire and will require massive intervention from the entire world.