Hepatitis D is a preventable liver disease caused by the hepatitis delta virus (HDV), which relies on the hepatitis B virus (HBV) to replicate.
Hepatitis D is rare in most developed countries, however it is much more common in Mediterranean countries, sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and countries in the northern part of South America.
For people without the
hepatitis B infection, getting the hepatitis B vaccination will protect against the hepatitis D virus.
hepatitis B should try to eliminate their risk of exposure to infected blood or blood products.
The symptoms of hepatitis D are identical to those of hepatitis B. These symptoms include:
- Jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes)
- Loss of appetite
- Joint pain
- Pain in the stomach area
Hepatitis D is transmitted in similar ways to hepatitis B.
- Contact with infectious blood or blood products
- Exposure to contaminated needles
- Household transmission
- Sexual transmission
A co-infection is when you acquire hepatitis D infection at the same time you are infected with hepatitis B. If you are infected in this way, acute hepatitis will develop following an incubation period of up to three months. This is the time it takes between infection and the appearance of first symptoms.
A super-infection is when you already have chronic hepatitis B and become infected with hepatitis D. The combination of hepatitis D and hepatitis B can be more serious than hepatitis B by itself and super-infections are more likely to cause severe chronic hepatitis and cirrhosis.
A blood test is necessary to diagnose hepatitis D.
Currently there is no effective antiviral therapy available for treatment of acute or chronic hepatitis D. In some cases hepatitis D can be treated by Interferon-alpha, but around 60 - 97 per cent of those who initially respond to the treatment will relapse.
If you think that you have hepatitis D or may have been exposed to it, contact your local health unit or family doctor for further information.
- For people without hepatitis B, vaccination against hepatitis B will protect against the hepatitis D virus
- People with hepatitis B should try to eliminate their risk of exposure to infected blood or blood products to make sure they do not become infected
There is no vaccine for hepatitis D.