The city of Glasgow may see more cases of Legionnaires' disease over the next fortnight, according to various health experts. Five people have been sent to hospital with the ailment with three still receiving treatment.All are doing well and are expected to make a full recovery.

The two women and three men sickened are between the ages of 49 and 79, with the disease origin point being Renfrew. NHS have stated that two of the sick lived in the town, and the others worked there for the span of time it took the illness to develop. Legionnaires' disease has a 14-day incubation period.

As a precautionary measure, water located in 14 separate cooling towers near the Renfrew residents' homes has been treated to eliminate the bacteria that causes Legionnaires' disease. Other sources of water in the area have been sampled but have not yet yielded conclusive results. It is currently thought these other water sources are not contributing to the outbreak.

A public health consultant for the NHS in Glasgow, Dr. Gillian Penrice, stated there have been no more cases of illness reported but since the disease can incubate for as long as 14 days, there is the possibility of more cases in the near future. Hospital staff and doctors should keep Legionnaires' disease in mind when treating those who present with fever, dry coughing, headache, diarrhoea, stomach pain and difficulty in breathing.

The illness, a rare form of pneumonia, is caused by Legionella bacteria that grow in, and are spread through, water supplies. It is contracted through inhaling tiny droplets of the bad water but not through drinking it. The disease cannot be passed from one person to another. While the bacteria tends to not cause issue in natural water environments, it can become widespread and dangerous when introduced through artificial means, like an air-conditioning system.

The first known outbreak of Legionnaires' disease occurred in the United States after a 1976 American Legion convention in Philadelphia. Within one week of the event's conclusion, six participants had died of a mysterious lung ailment. Altogether, 130 people were hospitalised and 25 lost their lives. It was not until 1978 that the bacteria was isolated and found responsible for the deadly disease. The discovery led to new, stricter regulations for large-scale cooling systems around the globe.

Those living in the town of Renfrew are advised to continue cooking food and drinking water in the manner they usually would, as there is no danger in doing so.

Legionnaires' disease is not unique to Scotland, as there was an outbreak in the south-western sector of Glasgow in summer 2012. There was a total of 101 cases of the illness, which resulted in the deaths of three males.

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Author: +Duncan Hollis