The term “swine flu” can be a little misleading. In reality swine flu is a term coined to describe the 2009 H1N1 outbreak of influenza. The swine flu pandemic was the second H1N1 pandemic recorded with the first being the 1918 “Spanish Flu” which claimed between 20 and 100 million lives.

Swine flu vs ebola

Image of H1N1 influenza virus, taken in the CDC Influenza Laboratory.

H1N1 is easily treated in modern hospitals and the case fatality rate is low compared to Ebola. Vaccination is possible with sufficient antibody production reached in approximate ten days. Considering the short generation time for the virus and airborne transmission it would pose a significant risk without a vaccine or modern medicine as it did in 1918. H1N1 strains of flu are notable for their lack of discrimination; the strain infects all age groups unlike other types of flu which have a greater effect on children and the elderly.

Trait Ebola Virus Swine Flu
R 0 2.2 Mean ~1.16-1.75
Generation Time 5 (CDC), 11 (WHO) 2.4-3.1 days
Mortality Rate 25-90% / ~70% 2014 Outbreak 0.03% (2009)
Airborne No Yes
Waterborne No No
Primary Transmission Bodily Fluids (Almost All) Airborne
Vaccine In Trials Yes
Primary Hosts Humans, Primates, Bats Swine, Humans
Type RNA Virus RNA Virus
Deaths per Annum Very Low Prior to 2014 Relatively Low, 2009 outbreak ~15000
Largest known Outbreak 2013/14 West Africa 1918 “Spanish Flu” and 2009 “Swine flu”
First Isolated 1976 Novel “Swine Flu” 2009
Last Pandemic Never Recorded 2009-2010
Patient Isolation Required No
Contact Tracing Required No
Possible Age Thousands of Years Thousands of Years

The above table shows Swine Flu vs Ebola on a basic level. Symptomatic comparisons are not provided since there is no current outbreak of H1N1. However there is a page for the comparison of the symptoms between Ebola and Influenza.

The 2009 outbreak of “Swine flu” saw at least 600000 confirmed cases globally. The pandemic was declared as over in 2010 by the World Health Organization. The virus has a lower R0 than Ebola but a significantly faster generation time.

The 2009 pandemic attracted controversial opinions from critics around the world claiming that the media and global health organizations had inflated the perceived risk in order to encourage vaccination.