(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Nineteen students at the University of Maryland at College Park have come down with confirmed or suspected cases of viral meningitis in a little more than a week.

Health officials at the university said that they are encouraging students to practice good hygiene to avoid the serious illness. David McBride, director of the campus health center, said that most of the students who became sick recovered quickly, returning to class in as little as two days.

The viral form of meningitis is not as serious as the bacterial form, which had outbreaks at Princeton and the University of California at Santa Barbara last year and which killed a Georgetown sophomore in September.

The bacterial outbreaks affected nine people at Princeton and four at the University of California at Santa Barbara. A student in California had to have his feet amputated because of the illness, and a Drexel student who had contact with Princeton students died.

McBride said that students should not be alarmed because the outbreak at U-Md. is viral, not bacterial. The two forms have the same symptoms and both involve inflammation of the tissue around the brain and spinal cord, but viral meningitis is rarely fatal in people with healthy immune systems.

University of Maryland spokeswoman Katie Lawson said that the first case of viral meningitis was confirmed at the school Oct. 20. Three days later, the university publicly confirmed that several students were being treated for the virus.

University officials have said they provided information to “organizations that are primarily affected” but would not publicly identify them. The Diamondback, the student newspaper, said that fraternities have distributed fliers about the illness.

Also this week, a D.C. public school was cleaned and parents were notified after a preschool teacher came down with viral meningitis.

Dana Hedgpeth contributed to this report.