What is Hepatitis?
Hepatitis is a disease of the liver that is manifested by inflammation of the liver. Through inflammation, hepatocytes, the most important cells of the liver are affected.
Hepatitis can have several causes but is most often caused by a viral infection. Hepatitis is divided into acute hepatitis, rapid forms with specific symptoms, and chronic hepatitis, which can often be asymptomatic and difficult to detect.
Acute hepatitis, usually caused by the hepatitis A virus, is manifested by symptoms such as yellowing of the skin and eyes (jaundice), fatigue, nausea or vomiting. Chronic hepatitis can only be caused by viruses B, C and D and can go unnoticed but can lead to much more serious diseases over time.
Viruses that cause viral hepatitis B C and D are also dangerous because they are highly transmissible, with hepatitis B being more easily transmitted through blood or sexual contact than HIV.
Fortunately, there are treatments for hepatitis B and C and for Hepatitis B there is also a vaccine.
Hepatitis D is a disease caused by a virus that can only multiply in the presence of hepatitis B virus. Thus, hepatitis D can only occur as a co-infection with the B virus and a person vaccinated against the B virus is also immune to the hepatitis D virus. Infection can occur at the same time as B or it can occur in a person who already has chronic hepatitis B and becomes infected with D as well. Due to the fact that the D virus can only exist in the presence of the B virus it is considered a coinfection and the disease is often called Hepatitis B + D.
The D virus is transmitted in the same way as the hepatitis B virus. The main routes of transmission are from mother to child during birth, through unprotected sexual contact or through contact with the blood or other fluids (semen, saliva, other secretions) of an infected person. . Although Virus D can only exist in the presence of B virus, unlike B virus there is no 100% effective form of treatment. Treatment is usually performed with Interferon.
Hepatitis D virus is not transmitted through air, water or food, by coughing or touching, and is rarely transmitted through breast milk.
The evolution of the disease
Infection with the Hepatitis D virus evolves similarly to B-only infection but the evolution is faster. There are two cases of infection:
Simultaneous co-infection with B and D viruses – the infected person acquires B and D viruses at the same time. There is an increased risk of fulminant hepatitis – about 5% of people infected in this way develop a form of fulminant hepatitis, in which case the liver is significantly affected and can no longer perform its function. People who do not develop fulminant hepatitis usually heal spontaneously.
D-virus superinfection of a person with chronic hepatitis B – A person infected with the B virus in a chronic form is superinfected with the D virus, the evolution of the disease being faster and more dangerous. More cases of B + D superinfection lead to cirrhosis than cases of infection with B virus alone and the evolution of the disease is accentuated and accelerated.
Aggravating factors for Hepatitis D are:
- Alcohol consumption
- Infections with other hepatitis viruses or HIV
- Old age
What can I do?
If you want to be tested for hepatitis B and D, contact your family doctor and ask for more information about testing programs in Romania.
How can I treat myself?
If you are diagnosed with hepatitis D it is extremely important to consult a doctor for treatment.
How can I prevent hepatitis D virus infection?
The only sure way to prevent it is to vaccinate against the hepatitis B virus, without which the D virus cannot exist. It is also recommended that you do not use personal hygiene items in common with other people and always practice protected sex, especially if you are infected with the B virus.