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Hepatitis D

Hepatitis D (delta) is the least common but most severe form of viral hepatitis. It is rare in New Zealand. It can’t multiply without the hepatitis B virus (HBV), and is therefore only found in people with HBV. 

What are the symptoms?  

The signs and symptoms of hepatitis D are the same as other forms of hepatitis:  

  • Dark urine 

  • Pale faeces 

  • Jaundice 

  • Loss of appetite 

  • Abdominal pain and tenderness 

  • Nausea and vomiting 

  • Fever.  

It takes 2-8 weeks to develop the illness after exposure.  

How serious is the virus?  

Hepatitis D infection can occur at the same time as hepatitis B infection. People who are co-infected may experience a more serious illness but most will clear the hepatitis D and never develop it in its chronic (long-term) form.  

Hepatitis D can also occur as a super-infection in people with chronic hepatitis B (CHB). People with CHB who have a super-infection usually develop chronic hepatitis D and have a higher risk of developing chronic liver disease.  

How can I catch it?  

Hepatitis D is spread in similar ways to hepatitis B because the virus is found in blood. Therefore, whenever blood from an infected person enters the bloodstream of a person who is not immune there is the risk of transmission. For example, hepatitis D infection can occur through sharing injecting equipment, or

through needle-stick injuries. It is less common for hepatitis D to be spread through sexual contact, or from mother to baby.  

Hepatitis D is diagnosed by a blood test that detects antibodies. 

How is it treated?  

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.  

How can it be prevented?  

Like HBV, hepatitis D can be prevented by following the below measures:  

  • Vaccination and screening programmes 

  • Safe handling of body fluids 

  • Safe sex practices 

  • Using sterile equipment for injections, skin piercings and tattoos. 


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