An investigation of some risk factors for severe leptospirosis on Barbados

J Trop Med Hyg. 1992 Feb;95(1):13-22.


Between November 1979 and the end of December 1986 (7.17 years), 248 cases of leptospirosis were confirmed among hospital patients on Barbados (mean 35 per year; range 25-57). Considering the 235 who were greater than or equal to 15 years of age, the annual incidence of leptospirosis was 19.2/100,000 population (14.0 for all age groups). There were 173 males and 62 females, and for cases aged 15-34 leptospirosis was 9.6 times more common in men than women. Among men, incidence increased fairly steadily with age, and an even steadier increase was apparent in women up to age 64, with some decline in later years. The incidence of disease was much higher among agricultural than other workers and the non-employed. Highest case numbers were recorded in the parishes of St Michael (65 or 28%) and Christ Church (36 or 15%), though the incidence was lowest in these two parishes (13.1/100,000 and 17.4/100,000, respectively). The highest incidence rates were in St Andrew and St Joseph (50.2 and 36.1/100,000, respectively). The incidence in areas with rainfall greater than or equal to 1600 mm (32.6/100,000) was nearly twice that in areas with rainfall less than 1600 mm (17.3/100,000). There is a clear link between cases of severe disease and recent rainfall. Using 134 patients greater than or equal to 15 years of age with fever due to other illnesses as controls, a higher proportion of cases than controls came from rural areas. The risk of contracting leptospirosis was increased for all categories of manual workers relative to the group at lowest risk (non-manual indoor workers). Sugar-cane workers were five times more likely to contract leptospirosis than were non-manual indoor workers, while those whose families minded livestock were 2.5 times more likely, and those with rodents in their garden/yard were 1.8 times more likely to do so. Other risk factors examined did not show significant associations with the disease. Despite increasing mechanization and the use of more protective clothing, agricultural workers are still at high risk from leptospirosis. The annual range of cases is likely to stay much as it is in the foreseeable future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Agriculture
  • Barbados / epidemiology
  • Demography
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Leptospirosis / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Rain
  • Risk Factors
  • Rural Health
  • Sex Factors