This review describes the geographic and temporal distribution of, detection methods for, and other epidemiological features of published leptospirosis outbreaks, with the aim of informing efforts to standardize outbreak-reporting practices.
We conducted a systematic review of leptospirosis outbreaks reported in the scientific literature and ProMED during 1970–2012. Predefined criteria were used to identify and classify outbreaks and a standard form was used to extract information.
During 1970–2012, we identified 318 outbreaks (average: 7 outbreaks/year; range: 1–19). Most outbreaks were reported in the Latin America and the Caribbean region (36%), followed by Southern Asia (13%), and North America (11%). Most outbreaks were located in tropical and subtropical ecoregions (55%). Quality classification showed that there was clear description of laboratory-confirmed cases in 40% of outbreaks. Among those, the average outbreak size was 82 cases overall (range: 2–2 259) but reached 253 cases in
tropical/subtropical ecoregions. Common risk factors included outdoor work activities (25%), exposure to floodwaters (23%), and recreational exposure to water (22%). Epidemiologic investigation was conducted in 80% of outbreaks, mainly as case interviews. Case fatality was 5% overall (range: 0%–60%).
Outbreak reporting increased over the study period with outbreaks covering tropical and
non-tropical regions. Outbreaks varied by size, setting, and risk factors; however, data reviewed often had limited information regarding diagnosis and epidemiology. Guidelines are recommended to develop standardized procedures for diagnostic and epidemiological investigations during an outbreak and for reporting.