An ebola epidemic that has already killed dozens of people in Guinea’s southern forests has spread to the capital, Conakry, the United Nations children’s agency has said. At least 59 out of 80 people who have contracted ebola in the west African country have died. Unicef said the virus had spread quickly from the communities of Macenta, Gueckedou, and Kissidougou to the capital. The health ministry said 80 cases including 59 deaths had been reported, most of them in three southern prefectures near neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. A team including the health minister has been sent to the region. Previous ebola outbreaks have been reported in Congo and Uganda, most recently in 2012. The only prior case of a human contracting the virus in west Africa came in 1994, when a scientist fell ill while responding to ebola cases among chimpanzees in a national park in Ivory Coast, said Dr Esther Sterk, tropical disease adviser for Doctors Without Borders. The scientist eventually recovered. Sterk, who is co-ordinating the Doctors Without Borders response from Geneva, said the organisation had confirmed 49 cases including 29 deaths. Samples from six victims had been linked to ebola, she said, and it was “quite likely” the others also contracted the virus. “We see that a lot of people that died, they were all linked, meaning they have been in contact with each other,” she said. “That is very typical for ebola outbreaks. We see that there is a transmission chain in families.” Officials have not been able to determine how ebola was introduced. It can result from contact with an infected animal such as a bat or a monkey. Among humans it is transmitted through bodily fluids. Officials have been unable to determine the subtype of ebola, which would give them a better idea of the fatality rate, Sterk said. The fatality rate for ebola can range from 25-90%. Sterk said there were concerns that the disease could spread to Sierra Leone and Liberia. The health ministry statement said one of the positive cases had travelled to the latter. “There’s definitely a risk but it all depends on the movement of the people,” Sterk said.