Yes, it can be, but not always in the same straightforward way that some diseases are contagious.
With chickenpox, for example, if you are exposed to the virus and you haven not had the disease, you will probably get a case of chickenpox, with all its telltale symptoms. But when you come down with influenza, you may or may not have exactly the same symptoms as the person from whom you caught it.
And acute bronchitis can have even more variables when it comes to contagion. When it is caused by a virus — and most cases are — the infected person can spread the germ by coughing it into the air where people nearby can inhale it. The virus can also get on your hands when you touch your nose or cover your mouth and then get spread by touch.
Among the many respiratory viruses that can cause acute bronchitis are the rhinoviruses, which are the main culprits in the common cold. The typical pattern is to have a head cold for a few days before the virus sets up shop in the bronchial tubes, causing the inflammation that is acute bronchitis.
If you are otherwise in good health, well-rested and a non-smoker, you may not come down with the cold at all, or you may get some cold symptoms without ever developing acute bronchitis. Or some people may just get the cough and nothing else. It is hard to predict exactly how effectively each individual’s immune system will fight the virus and how your body will respond to infection.
However, people are at greater risk of developing acute bronchitis if their bronchial passages are already damaged or impaired by smoking, asthma or other chronic respiratory diseases.
The good news is that with adequate rest, plenty of fluids and over-the-counter remedies to ease the symptoms, most people recover completely from acute bronchitis within a week or two. Call your doctor if the cough drags on for a month or longer, if you have a very high fever or a fever that continues for more than a few days, if you cough up blood or if you develop wheezing or breathing problems.