Is acute bronchitis contagious?

Answers from James M. Steckelberg, M.D.

Yes. Most cases of acute bronchitis are caused by viral infections. Influenza viruses are a common cause, but many other viruses also have been identified in people with acute bronchitis. These viruses spread from person to person through direct and indirect contact.

To reduce the risk of "catching" bronchitis:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people
  • Wash your hands often or use hand sanitizers regularly
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Get an annual flu vaccination

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

May 23, 2013 See more Expert Answers