Is acute bronchitis contagious?

Answer From John M. Wilkinson, M.D.

Yes. Most of the time, acute bronchitis is caused by a virus, such as the flu (influenza) virus. However, many different viruses — all of which are very contagious — can cause acute bronchitis.

Viruses spread mainly from person to person by droplets produced when an ill person coughs, sneezes or talks and you inhale the droplets. Viruses may also spread through contact with an infected object. This happens when you touch something with the virus on it and then touch your mouth, eyes or nose.

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.

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May 16, 2019 See more Expert Answers