Five cases of mumps, a contagious disease preventable by vaccination, have been reported to the Student Health Center this semester.

Three of those cases occurred this month, leading Assistant Vice President for Student Health Vince WinklerPrins to send a public health alert to the university community Thursday. All five cases have affected undergraduate students.

“These cases have been contained, and as we have learned about each new case, we have coordinated with the D.C. Department of Health and the Centers for Disease Control,” WinklerPrins wrote in the email.

Other local universities have also reported mumps cases. On Nov. 6, The Washington Post reported that Catholic University had four confirmed and three suspected cases while American University had two confirmed and four suspected cases.

Mumps is a viral disease transmitted by coughing, sharing items or other forms of close contact, according to the CDC. It causes swollen cheeks, fever, headache, tiredness and muscle aches, and complications can occasionally result.

The illness is preventable. The MMR vaccine, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella, is required for new Georgetown students under the age of 26.

The vaccine is typically administered in two doses, with the first dose around the age of one and the second dose at age four. For mumps, the vaccine is nearly 88 percent effective with both doses and 78 percent effective with just the first dose.

Cases of mumps rose nationwide in both 2016 and this year, with nearly 5,000 cases so far. The past two years have seen the largest mumps outbreaks since 2006, which saw over 6,500 cases nationwide.

Outbreaks are frequently tied to college settings, where students often live in close contact. Nearly half of the outbreaks from January 2016 to June 2017 occurred in college settings, according to the Washington Post.

Due to the sharp rise in mumps cases in recent years, a federal expert panel recommended in October an increase to three vaccine doses . The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices suggested the increase because many of the recent outbreaks have occurred in populations that are vaccinated at high rates.

Aside from vaccination, good health practices are beneficial for preventing mumps, as well as other illnesses. Avoiding sharing items, regularly washing hands and covering coughs and sneezes are all methods to prevent spreading disease.

The Student Health Center urges students who suspect they have mumps to call the center as soon as possible and to self-isolate to prevent spreading the illness to others.

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