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.
May 16, 2019
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See more Expert Answers
- Kellerman RD, et al. Bronchitis and viral respiratory infections. In: Conn's Current Therapy 2019. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier; 2019. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed April 29, 2019.
- Acute bronchitis. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/acute-bronchitis/acute-bronchitis. Accessed April 29, 2019.
- Healthy habits to help prevent flu. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/flu/prevent/actions-prevent-flu.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Fflu%2Fprotect%2Fhabits%2Findex.htm. Accessed April 29, 2019.
- What is acute bronchitis? Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/antibiotic-use/community/for-patients/common-illnesses/bronchitis.html. Accessed April 29, 2019.
- Kinkade S, et al. Acute bronchitis. American Family Physician. 2016;94:560.
- Treatment of acute COPD exacerbation. Merck Manual Professional Version. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/pulmonary-disorders/chronic-obstructive-pulmonary-disease-and-related-disorders/treatment-of-acute-copd-exacerbation. Accessed April 30, 2019.
- Wilkinson JM (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. May 6, 2019.