Northern Virginia's first-ever confirmed case of a rare mosquito-borne disease called Eastern equine encephalitis that is fatal to most horses is spreading concern among health officials who worry that the virus is somehow moving beyond its normal stamping grounds.
EEE is a noncontagious virus spread by mosquitoes, not unlike West Nile Virus, and was diagnosed last month in a 28-year-old mare from Middleburg in eastern Loudoun County's vaunted horse country.
"About 240 cases have been reported in humans in the United States since 1964, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with fewer since 1984 because of the decreasing number of people living near marshland. Since 2003, there have been five human cases in Virginia. The fatality rate for humans is lower than that for horses, but those who survive the disease can be left with mild to severe brain damage. Transmission of the virus is most common in and around freshwater hardwood swamps in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast states. "