A virus causes hepatitis C. The Centers for Disease Prevention estimates that 2.7 to 3.9 million Americans have chronic hepatitis C, but it impacts people all over the world, affecting an estimated 71 million people.
The disease is spread when blood from an infected individual gets into another person. A common mode of transmission is by drug users who share needles, but needle sticks in the health clinic can transmit the disease, and pregnant women can pass it to their baby. There is also a risk from using tattoo parlors that don't maintain proper hygienic practices, as well as a low chance of sexual transmission.
The virus is not spread through food, water, kissing, hugging, or touching. Insects like mosquitoes do not transmit the disease, which can cause fever, loss of appetite, fatigue, and pain the joints and abdomen, among other symptoms. It can lead to serious liver problems and liver failure. The disease can be treated, however. While vaccines exist for hepatitis A and B, one for C is not yet available.