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Preventing & screening for hepatitis D

How do you get hepatitis D?

The hepatitis D virus (HDV) can be transmitted through the blood or through sexual contact.

In developed countries, practices that carry a high risk of infection with HDV are intravenous drug use (when sharing infected syringes) or any non-medically supervised skin lesion (tattooing, piercing, shaving with contaminated material...).1

Infections with the HDV can also occur during treatments such as medical, surgical and dental procedures as a result of the reuse of soiled (contaminated) material (unsuitable and therefore prohibited). In general, any contact with infected blood or blood derivative carries a risk of an infection with HDV.2

HDV can also be transmitted via sexual contact during unprotected sexual intercourse (without a condom). This route of infection mainly affects prostitutes or people with frequently changing sexual partners.

In addition, mother-to-child transmission of HDV is possible.2

The situation in Germany

In a large study in Germany, 1.2% of people infected with hepatitis B virus (HBV) also tested positive for HDV.3 Basically, this number is considered low compared to other countries in the world. One reason is the introduction of the HBV vaccination recommendation for newborns in 1995, which caused a decrease in hepatitis D incidences.1 In addition, the systematic detection of HDV in blood donations and the improvement of hygienic measures also limited the transmission of HDV.4

symbols of genders, syringe and blood drop


  1. Robert Koch Institut. Epidemiologisches Bulleting Nr. 29. Virushepatitis B und D im Jahr 2018. https://www.rki.de/DE/Content/Infekt/EpidBull/Archiv/2019/Ausgaben/29_19.pdf?__blob=publicationFile. Juni 2020.
  2. Pascarella S., Negro F. Hepatitis D virus: an update. Liver Int. 2011 Jan;31(1):7-21
  3. Juhl D et al. Prevalence of antibodies against Hepatitis D virus (HDV) in blood donors in Northern Germany. Transfus Apher Sci. 2020 Jan 9:102721. doi: 10.1016/j.transci.2020.102721.
  4. Website der WHO Stand 09/03/2020, verfügbar online unter: https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hepatitis-d