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Hepatitis B virus
Hepatitis B virus


Definition:

Delta agent is a type of virus called hepatitis D that causes symptoms only in people who have a hepatitis B infection.



Alternative Names:

Hepatitis D virus



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

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:

  • Abusing intravenous (IV) drugs
  • Being infected while pregnant (the mother can pass the virus to the baby)
  • Carrying the hepatitis B virus
  • Having had a hepatitis B infection in the past
  • Men having intercourse with other men
  • Receiving many blood transfusions


Symptoms:

Hepatitis D may make the symptoms of hepatitis B more severe.

Symptoms may include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Fatigue
  • Jaundice
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting


Signs and tests:

Treatment:

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.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

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).



Complications:
  • Chronic active hepatitis
  • Fulminant hepatitis


Calling your health care provider:

Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of hepatitis B.



Prevention:

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:

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.




Review Date: 2/21/2009
Reviewed 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.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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