Hepatitis C is the most common bloodborne infection in the United States. It is caused by the hepatitis C virus (HCV), which produces inflammation of the liver. New HCV infections can cause acute liver abnormalities, which resolve in some patients without treatment. In others, infection becomes chronic and may remain active for the rest of the person's life. Chronic HCV infection often causes no symptoms even though progressive liver damage is occurring. People chronically infected with HCV may develop liver failure, severe scarring of the liver (cirrhosis), or liver cancer. Currently, infection is most commonly transmitted by injection drug use. It can also be transmitted by having unprotected sex with an infected person. Before 1992 (when widespread screening of donated blood for infection began), the virus was also transmitted by transfusions. The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III), a nationwide health survey performed from 1988 to 1994, indicated that about 3.9 million people (1.8% of the U.S. population) were infected with HCV.