What is it?
- Hepatitis D, also called delta virus, also known as an incomplete virus that requires the helper function of hepatitis B virus to multiply and is therefore only found in people who are already infected with hepatitis B. Hepatitis D is the least common but most severe form of viral hepatitis
- Hepatitis D can be an acute, short-term, infection or a long-term, chronic infection
- Hepatitis D infection only occurs as a co-infection, which means it occurs at the same time as hepatitis B infection; or it can occur as a super infection in people who have chronic hepatitis B.
- It is rare in Australia but people who are infected with hepatitis D and hepatitis B have a higher risk of developing chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver).i
How is it transmitted?
- Hepatitis D is spread in similar ways to hepatitis B because the virus is found in blood.
- Blood to blood
Activities which place people at risk
- Sharing injecting and auxiliary equipment
- Tattooing and skin piercing with contaminated equipment
- Sharing toothbrushes, combs, & razors
Short term effects
“The symptoms of hepatitis D are similar to hepatitis B
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- pain in the liver (upper, right side of abdomen)
- muscle and joint pain
- Jaundice (yellowish eyes and skin, dark urine and pale-coloured faeces.” (CDC 2006)
Long term effects
- People who are infected with hepatitis D and hepatitis B have a higher risk of developing chronic liver disease and cirrhosis (scarring of the liver)
- Hepatitis B vaccination prevents hepatitis D
- Hepatitis B vaccination prevents hepatitis D for people who are chronically infected with hepatitis B
- If you have chronic hepatitis B harm reduction practices are the only protection.
- No sharing of all injecting and auxiliary equipment
- Ensure sterile equipment for tattooing and skin piercing
- Follow Universal Precautions when managing body fluids
- Avoid sharing toothbrushes, combs, and razors
- Safe sexual practices that ensure blood is not transmitted
- Co-infection and super infection with hepatitis D can be diagnosed by a blood test which, if positive, will show antibodies against the hepatitis D virus
Discuss the protocols for monitoring your liver health with your gastroenterologist
There is no specific treatment for hepatitis D. Research indicates that the medication used to treat hepatitis B has a limited effect on the activity of hepatitis D virus. Clinical trials using Pegylated interferon have demonstrated some benefit in people with hepatitis D