Hepatitis D

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Hepatitis D is a viral infection of the liver that can only be acquired if a person has active hepatitis B. Hepatitis D is linked directly to hepatitis B, particularly to chronic hepatitis Binfection


How is it transmitted?

 
  • The modes of transmission are similar to those for hepatitis B. However, sexual transmission of hepatitis D is less common than for hepatitis B.
  • Hepatitis D can only infect people with active hepatitis B infection.
  • Hepatitis D is passed most often through sharing IV drug needles with an infected person.
  • People receiving clotting factor concentrates may also be at a higher risk.
  • Transmission of hepatitis D from mother to child during birth is rare


What are the symptoms?

 
  • Many with both hepatitis B and hepatitis D may or may not develop symptoms. When present, symptoms are similar to those of hepatitis B.
  • People with both hepatitis B and hepatitis D are more likely to have sudden, severe symptoms, called fulminant hepatitis.
  • Those who are infected with both hepatitis B and hepatitis D are at greater risk for developing serious complications associated with chronic liver disease.
  • People infected with hepatitis B and hepatitis B may become chronically infected and may be contagious from time to time for the rest of their lives.


How is hepatitis D diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider can test for hepatitis D through blood tests that identify hepatitis D virus antigen or antibodies.


How is hepatitis D treated?

  • Most people with acute viral hepatitis experience a self-limited illness (one that runs a defined, limited course) and go on to recover completely. There is no accepted therapy, nor restrictions on diet or activity.
  • People with chronic hepatitis B and D can be treated with interferon. Your healthcare provider can help you make decisions about your care needs based upon your medical history and liver condition.
  • In most cases, hospitalization should be considered for patients who are severely ill for supportive care.


What does it mean for my health?

  • Hepatitis D, can cause a more severe acute disease than a hepatitis B infection alone. The severity of the diseases together can result in death.
  • When hepatitis D is acquired and hepatitis B infection already exists, chronic liver diseases with cirrhosis are more likely to occur than with an hepatitis B infection alone.
  • People with chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis D have a greater chance of developing chronic liver disease and cirrhosis.

How can I prevent hepatitis D?

  • Get vaccinated against hepatitis B. This also provides protection against hepatitis D since hepatitis B must be present in order for hepatitis D infection to occur.
  • If you inject drugs and can't stop, avoid sharing your works--needles, syringes, cotton, water, spoons, pots (cookers)--or any other drug paraphernalia. If you choose to share your works, clean them with water and bleach, filling syringes for at least 30 seconds.
  • Use latex condoms the right way every time you have vaginal, anal or oral sex. Even though hepatitis D is not commonly transmitted through sex, hepatitis B is, and having hepatitis B makes it possible to get hepatitis D.

Talking to a partner

When you and your partner understand how hepatitis D is passed, you can both agree to protect your health. Remember:

  • Hepatitis D is very rarely sexually transmitted, but using latex condoms the right way every time for vaginal, oral and anal sex greatly reduces the risk of passing or getting a sexually transmitted infection, like hepatitis B.
  • If your partner uses injecting drugs, talk to them about stopping.
  • If you inject drugs and can't stop, avoid sharing your works--needles, syringes, cotton, water, spoons, pots (cookers)--or any other drug paraphernalia. If you choose to share your works, clean them with water and bleach, filling syringes for at least 30 seconds.

More information:

Centers for Disease Control (CDC):
Viral Hepatitis Division and National Immunziation Program
Hepatitis Foundation International
American Liver Foundation
Immunization Action Coalition (IAC)
Parents of Kids with Infectious Diseases (PKID)