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Alternative Names Return to topHepatitis D virus
Definition Return to top
Delta agent is a type of virus called hepatitis D that causes symptoms only in people who have a hepatitis B infection.
Causes Return to top
Hepatitis D virus (HDV) is only found in people who carry the hepatitis B virus. HDV may make a hepatitis B infection or existing hepatitis B liver disease worse. It can cause symptoms in people with hepatitis B virus who never had symptoms.
Hepatitis D infects about 15 million people worldwide. It occurs in 5% of people with hepatitis B.
Risk factors include:
Symptoms Return to top
Hepatitis D may make the symptoms of hepatitis B more severe.
Symptoms may include:
Exams and Tests Return to top
Treatment Return to top
Many of the medicines used to treat hepatitis B are not helpful for treating hepatitis D. See hepatitis B.
Persons with long-term HDV infection may receive a medicine called alpha interferon for up to 12 months. A liver transplant for end-stage chronic hepatitis B may be effective.
Outlook (Prognosis) Return to top
Persons with an acute HDV infection usually get better over 2 to 3 weeks. Liver enzyme levels return to normal within 16 weeks.
About 10% of those who are infected may develop long-term (chronic) liver inflammation (hepatitis).
Possible Complications Return to top
When to Contact a Medical Professional Return to top
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of hepatitis B.
Prevention Return to top
Prompt recognition and treatment of hepatitis B infection can help prevent hepatitis D.
Avoid intravenous drug abuse. If you use IV drugs, avoid sharing needles.
A vaccine is available to prevent hepatitis B. It should be considered by people who are at high risk for hepatitis B infection.
References Return to top
Dienstag JL. Chronic viral hepatitis. In: Mandell GL, Bennett JE, Dolin R, eds. Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Churchill Livingstone;2005:chap 112.Update Date: 2/21/2009 Updated by: George F. Longstreth, MD, Department of Gastroenterology, Kaiser Permanente Medical Care Program, San Diego, California. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.