Video: Ebola Explained Like You’re Five Years Old


Kids: They’re dumb! If you want to explain anything to them, you’ll need to do it in very, very simple terms. Adults are dumb too! Or misinformed, or just confused, and sometimes they need things explained to them in simple terms too. That is the basic premise of the popular subreddit “Explain Like I’m Five.”

A year and a half ago, Explain Like I’m Five became one of the first of many planned Web series produced by Reddit, based on the site’s 100,000-plus subsections. The series kicked off by tackling three complex topics — the volatility of the stock market, the crisis in Syria, and existentialism — and reducing them to their most basic components.

The series (dormant, as far as we can tell, since it’s much-publicized launch in 2013) is back, and they’ve teamed up with UNICEF to produce a new episode explaining Ebola.

Ebola is the perfect candidate, really, for an Explain Like I’m Five, because it’s a complicated topic, fraught with misinformation. If the woman who wore a hazardous-materials suit to the airport in October saw the video, for instance, she might have learned that Ebola is only contagious while a patient is experiencing symptoms of the virus.

In fact, we really could have used a simple explainer here in New York when Ebola panic hit a few weeks ago. Can you get Ebola from a subway pole? Sitting next to a guy at the Meatball Shop? A bowling ball?

See also: Feverish Five-Year-Old Now Being Tested for Ebola at Bellevue Hospital

Dr. Craig Spencer, the New Yorker who contracted Ebola while serving with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, appears to be improving every day, by the way. He’s currently listed in stable condition at Bellevue Hospital.


Nicholas Ledner is a member of UNICEF’s digital strategy team, whose idea it was to resuscitate Explain Like I’m Five for an Ebola episode. He says the video is meant to engage millennials in a conversation about Ebola by reaching them where they spend most of their time: online. “How do you tell your children, not just what’s happening with Ebola, but with wars?” he says. “Maybe this is a good way to at least start that conversation.”

Hopefully, the video will prove to be a good fundraising tool for a relief effort still in dire need of donations, too. As NPR’s Planet Money explained, for a variety of reasons, Ebola has been a tough sell, fundraising-wise. For more information about how to donate to support UNICEF’s Ebola work, visit their website.