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Hepatitis D Fact Sheet

Bloodborne Pathogens Section

Cause

  • Hepatitis D is caused by the hepatitis delta virus.
  • Discovered in 1977
  • This is a defective virus. It can only replicate in the presence of hepatitis B surface antigen (HbsAg).
  • People infected with Hep D can be coinfected (infected with Hep B and D at the same time), or superinfected (existing Hep B infection and then infected later with Hep D)

Clinical Characteristics

Incubation Period
Incubation period of coinfected people is longer than that of superinfected people
Infection Rates
Worldwide,>5% of people with Hep B are also infected with Hep D
Coinfection:
Acute Illness: Serious illness in most cases
 
Chronic Illness: 2% of infections become long-term
Superinfection:
Chronic Illness: Over 90% of people infected become long-term carriers
Death from Cancer of the Liver
Few die from this complication

Death rates are higher for patients with HBV and patients with Disease from liver damage (15-25%)

Signs and Symptoms

  • The symptoms of Hep D are identical to those of Hep B (click here for Hep B Fact Sheet).
  • These symptoms include jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), tiredness, loss of appetite, joint pain, pain in the stomach area, and feelings of sickness.

Modes of Transmission

  • Most cases are acquired by exposure to contaminated needles.
  • Sexual transmission occurs, but is not common
  • Household transmission can occur.

Persons at Risk

Those at risk for Hep D infection are limited to people at risk for Hep B. This includes people with multiple sexual partners and people who inject drugs. (See Hep B Fact Sheet)

Prevention

  • In people without Hep B infection, vaccination against HBV will protect against the hepatitis delta virus.
  • People with Hep B should try to eliminate their risk of exposure to infected blood or blood products (see risk factors) to make sure they do not become infected.

Vaccine Information

  • There are no vaccines available for Hep D.
  • Vaccination against Hep B will protect against Hep D.

Treatment

  • Hep D can be treated in some cases by Interferon-alpha, but around 60-97% of those who initially respond to the treatment will relapse, and get Hep D again.

Canadian Data on the Trends of Hep D

  • The prevalence of Hep D infection is extremely low in Canada.

Reference: Bloodborne Pathogens Section, Blood Safety Surveillance and Health Care Acquired Infections Division, Health Canada, 2003