- Hepatitis delta is different from other types of hepatitis.
- You can only get it if you have hepatitis B. It can make your hepatitis B worse.
- Other names for it are hepatitis D virus or HDV.
- A small number of people who have hepatitis B in Australia also have hepatitis delta.
- There is no specific vaccine to protect you from hepatitis delta. But if you don't have hepatitis B, you can get the hepatitis B vaccine. This will also protect you from hepatitis delta.
How do you get hepatitis delta?
You get hepatitis delta in the same way as hepatitis B, by infected blood or body fluids getting into your blood. For example, if you are in contact with an open wound, or if you share needles. You can also get it from having sex without a condom with a partner who has the virus. You can't get hepatitis delta through saliva (spit). You can't get it through casual contact, like kissing, hugging or sharing food.
It's very unlikely that you will pass on hepatitis delta from mother to child. But you can pass it on to people you live with. For example, if you share razors or toothbrushes. Often, a lot of people in the same family will have the virus.
Who is more likely to get hepatitis delta?
If you have hepatitis B, you should get tested for hepatitis delta. You can do this with a blood test. You can only get hepatitis delta if you have hepatitis B.
In Australia, it's more common to have hepatitis delta if you were born in Vietnam, Sudan or Afghanistan. You're also more likely to get hepatitis delta if you have ever been in prison. There are no studies that tell us that hepatitis delta is more common in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
Number of people in the world with hepatitis delta, among people living with hepatitis B.
Passing on hepatitis delta to others
You can get hepatitis delta at the same time as hepatitis B. This is a co-infection. Or you can get it after you've had hepatitis B for a long time. This is a superinfection.
If you are co-infected with hepatitis delta, you are more likely to only have short-term hepatitis delta. This means you will have it for less than 6 months. But you are also more likely to have very serious liver failure.
Superinfection is the most common form of hepatitis delta. If you have this you're more likely to have hepatitis delta for your whole life (chronic). A superinfection means you are more likely to get cirrhosis (serious liver scarring), liver failure and liver cancer.
Signs of hepatitis delta
Many people with hepatitis delta may feel well for a long time. The signs are like those for hepatitis B. They can be mild to severe, and can include:
- Fever, feeling tired, muscle or joint pain
- Not feeling hungry
- Feeling sick in your stomach and vomiting
- Stomach pain
- Pale or light-coloured poo
- Dark or brown wee
Serious signs that mean you need to go to the doctor straight away include:
- Feeling really sick in your stomach and vomiting a lot
- Yellow eyes and skin (called "jaundice")
- Bloated or swollen stomach
Even if your signs are mild, see a doctor straight away.
Can I take medicine to treat hepatitis delta?
The current medicines for hepatitis B do not work for hepatitis delta. A small number of people have used something called pegylated interferon alpha, and it worked. But for most people there are no treatments that work well.
Researchers are testing some new medicines for hepatitis delta. If you have hepatitis delta, you can talk to your doctor to see if there are any clinical trials you can take part in.
It's important to keep going to check-ups with your doctor if you have hepatitis B every 6 to 12 months. It's even more important if you have hepatitis delta, because you are more likely to get liver damage. It is also important that your doctor knows you have hepatitis delta. This is because it can affect the results of some of your tests.
Hepatitis D, Victoria State Government Department of Health
Complex situations Co-infection and Immunosuppression, B Positive, ASHM
Hepatitis Delta Connect, Hepatitis B Foundation
Hepatitis D - including symptoms, treatment and prevention, SA Health
Epidemiology and phylogenetic analysis of hepatitis D virus infection in Australia, Kathy Jackson, Jennifer MacLachlan, Benjamin Cowie, Stephen Locarnini, Scott Bowden, Nasra Higgins, Theo Karapanagiotidis, Suellen Nicholson, Margaret Littlejohn, DOI: 10.1111/imj.13967
Epidemiology and clinical outcomes of hepatitis delta (D) virus infection in Queensland, Australia, Sarah Coghill, John McNamara, Marion Woods, Krispin Hajkowicz, DOI: 10.1016/j.ijid.2018.07.005
Page Updated: 7 November 2022