Mumps, an infectious disease carried on a sneeze or a cup, appears to be spreading among D.C. universities, with cases reported at three schools.
The Catholic University of America recently identified a cluster of illness, with four confirmed mumps cases and three more suspected cases under investigation, a school spokeswoman said Monday.
On Friday, a message sent to the Georgetown University community said two undergraduates had been diagnosed with the disease. The cases at Georgetown have been confirmed, according to a letter from the D.C. Department of Health.
And American University has two confirmed mumps cases, as well as four suspected cases, school spokesman Mark Story said Monday.
The mumps cases at D.C. universities appear to be connected, though officials are still investigating, D.C. Department of Health spokeswoman Jasmine Gossett said.
“We are monitoring them and are working with the universities and their student health centers, just to inform them and then educate those who may be at risk,” Gossett said.
At Catholic, the school has adjusted Communion distribution during Mass to help combat the illness, university spokeswoman Elise Italiano said.
“Normally, we offer Communion through the host and what we call the chalice, or the cup with wine,” Italiano said. “And we suspended the second practice . . . because of the possible spread through saliva. So, we’ve just taken that extra precaution.”
Mumps spreads through saliva or mucus, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Symptoms include fever, headaches, and swollen and tender glands under the ears, the CDC’s website notes.
Georgetown officials asked infected students to cloister themselves for five days after the appearance of initial symptoms, a note to the campus from Vince WinklerPrins, assistant vice president for student health, said.
“We will continue to monitor and support these students,” WinklerPrins said.
In an email sent to its campus community, Catholic said residential students who had reported mumps symptoms have been moved to an unoccupied space, in an attempt to limit exposure.
“Students are able to return to rooms and classes after a five-day period,” the email stated.
Catholic’s students were also briefed on how someone infected with mumps can spread the virus: by coughing or sharing a drink, for example. They were advised to keep their hands clean and to not share their utensils.
The University of Virginia has also recently urged students to take precautions after two suspected cases were identified. A U-Va. spokesman did not immediately return an email seeking an update Monday.