Is acute bronchitis contagious?

Answers from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

Yes. Most of the time, acute bronchitis is caused by a virus. Influenza (flu) viruses are a common cause, but many other viruses can cause acute bronchitis.

Flu viruses spread mainly from person to person by droplets produced when an ill person coughs, sneezes or talks. Flu viruses also may spread when people touch something with the virus on it and then touch their mouth, eyes or nose. Many other respiratory viruses are spread in these ways too.

To reduce your risk of catching viruses that can cause bronchitis:

  • Avoid close contact with people who have the flu or another respiratory illness
  • Wash your hands often or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Get an annual flu shot

People who have chronic bronchitis or asthma sometimes develop acute bronchitis. In these cases, the acute bronchitis is most likely a complication of the existing condition. This type of bronchitis is not caused by an infectious virus, so it's less likely to be contagious.

March 11, 2016 See more Expert Answers