The Ebola Virus and Influenza share symptoms in the early stages as both are RNA viruses resulting in a consistent immune response upon infection. Flu has affected life on the planet for centuries and has been extensively studied over the last 100 years. Ebola on the other hand was a far more recent observation and has not seen the same level of attention prior to the 2014 outbreak. The below table attempts to compare some of the facts around Ebola and Influenza based on the information available.

A comparison of the symptoms is available here

Trait Ebola Virus Influenza
R0 2.2 Mean 1.3
Generation Time 5 (CDC), 11 (WHO) 2
Mortality Rate 25-90% / ~70% 2014 Outbreak Typically less than 1%
Airborne No Yes
Waterborne No No
Primary Transmission Bodily Fluids Airborne, Aerosol
Vaccine In Trials Yes, Seasonal
Primary Hosts Humans, Primates, Bats Mammals, Birds
Type RNA Virus RNA Virus
Deaths per Annum Very Low Prior to 2014 250000-500000
Largest known Outbreak 2013/14 West Africa 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic
First Isolated 1976 1901
Last Pandemic Never Recorded 2009 (Swine Flu)
Patient Isolation Required No
Contact Tracing Required No
Possible Age Thousands of Years Thousands of Years


It is very interesting to note that Ebola has a higher R-naught value than the common flu virus indicating that it has a far greater potential to spread. In theory Ebola is only restrained by its generation/incubation time and possibly its methods of transmission. Ebola poses a very real threat considering the high mortality rate and lack of effective treatments available in the event of rapid transmission. Isolation is a significant part of combating the virus since its R0 drops to around 0.13 once a patient has been quarantined.