Is pancreatitis Contagious? & How do you catch it?

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Summary: is pancreatitis contagious?

Pancreatitis is not a contagious disease. Although it is inflammation, more than 99% of its causes are unrelated to infection. In addition, even pancreatitis caused by infectious causes such as viruses and bacteria is not directly contagious.

If you have one of your family members friends with pancreatitis, there is no need to be afraid of catching pancreatitis.

The table below summarizes the causes of pancreatitis and whether they’re contagious or not (reference):

Causes of pancreatitis

How Common?


1. GallstonesCommonest,
in 40-70% of the cases.
Not contagious.
2. Alcohol.common,
in 20-35% of the cases.
Not contagious.
3. Increased TriglyceridesIn 1-14% of the cases.Not contagious.
4. Post-ERCP.In 3-5% of patients undergoing ERCP.Not contagious.
5. Medications.Less common (<5%)Not contagious.
6. GeneticThe less common, Cause idiopathic pancreatitis (without obvious cause).Not contagious.
7. Pancreatic duct injuryRareNot contagious.
8. InfectionVery rare, often in patients with immune deficiency such as HIV patients.The organism itself may be contagious, not pancreatitis.
9. Hypercalcemia (Rare 
10. cutting off its blood supplyRareNot contagious.
11. Unkown & Others.RareNot contagious.

How do you catch pancreatitis?

“catching” pancreatitis is quite an inaccurate term because pancreatitis is primarily NOT an infectious disease.

Pancreatitis occurs mainly due to local causes such as obstruction of the pancreatic secretions (often by a gallstone). And as we illustrated before, infection is a rare cause of pancreatitis.

So, the following are the most common ways of catching pancreatitis:

  1. Gallstones:
    Gallstones are formed inside the gallbladder in most cases. However, the small stones may slip from the gallbladder through the bile ducts reaching the pancreas. Gallstones obstructing the pancreatic duct are the most common way of catching pancreatitis.

  2. Alcohol.
    Alcohol is another widespread cause of acute pancreatitis. Approximately 10% of people with chronic alcohol use develop acute pancreatitis.

  3. Hypertriglyceridemia
    Genetic defects lead to an extremely high level of a type of blood lipids (called triglycerides). People with triglyceride levels above 1000 are at high risk of catching pancreatitis.

  4. Post-ERCP.
    Patients who undergo ERCP (endoscopic retrograde cholangiopancreatography) may catch pancreatitis after the procedure. This procedure is often done to relieve biliary obstruction caused by stones or tumors obstructing the bile ducts.

  5. Medications.
    Many medications can trigger acute pancreatitis. Common examples include diuretics, some antibiotics (such as sulfonamides and tetracycline), valproic acid, azathioprine, and estrogen. (see the full list).

  6. Genetic causes.
    Some people may have genetic defects leading to a higher risk of catching pancreatitis. A common example is PRSS1 and CFTR (in patients with cystic fibrosis) Genes.

  7. Pancreatic injury (trauma).
    Blunt trauma (sports, car accidents, fall from height, etc.) may cause direct injury to your pancreas and trigger pancreatitis.

  8. Infection.
    Infection as a cause of pancreatitis is generally rare. However, people with weak immune systems are those who catch pancreatitis. For example, infectious pancreatitis is common among people with HIV.

  9. Hypercalcemia (increased calcium).
    An extreme increase in serum calcium is often a result of increased PTH hormones (mainly due to parathyroid tumors). However, it is a rare cause of pancreatitis.

  10. Cutting of pancreatic blood supply.
    Obstruction of the blood vessels supplying the pancreas (often due to thrombosis) leads to a type of pancreatitis called (ischaemic pancreatitis).

  11. Unknown (idiopathic pancreatitis).

Is viral pancreatitis contagious?

Viruses are rare causes of acute pancreatitis. Viral pancreatitis is generally not contagious, and the pancreas is not often the primary target of these viruses.

In other words, you may get infected with the virus, but most of the time, you will not get pancreatitis.

For example, This review study concluded that hepatitis viruses (hepatitis A, B, and C) are the commonest cause of viral pancreatitis.

When you catch hepatitis viruses, it primarily affects the liver. However, in extremely rare conditions, it may cause pancreatitis. So, catching the virus doesn’t mean you will catch pancreatitis.

Common causes of viral pancreatitis and their mode of transmission are in the below table (reference):



Frequency (%)

Mode of transmission

Hepatitis viruses34.30%Hepatitis A (oral route as with contaminated food).
Hepatitis B, C, D, E (contact with infected blood).
Coxsackie & Echovirses14.80%– contaminated foods and drinks.
– Respiratory droplets (air-borne).
Hemorrhagic fever viruses12.40%– mosquito or tick bites
Cytomegalovirus (CMV)12%– contact with infected body fluids.
Varicella zoster virus10.50%– Contact with infected body fluids and respiratory droplets
Mumps & measles3.80%– respiratory droplets or contact with an infected person
Primary HIV3.80%– contact with infected body fluids, unsafe intercourse
Herpes simplex virus1.90%– contact with the virus in sores in the mouth, and saliva
Ebstein-Barr virus (EBV)1.90%– contact with infected body fluids
Others (influenza H1N1, Adenovirus, Covid-19)2.90%

What are viral pancreatitis symptoms?

Viral pancreatitis symptoms depend on the type of virus that causes pancreatitis. The symptoms of virtual pancreatitis are often suspected when there is fever and prodromal symptoms (runny nose, fatigue, and anorexia). Also, skin rashes and enlarged lymph nodes may present in patients with viral pancreatitis.

The above symptoms proceed or accompany the typical symptoms of pancreatitis, which include:

  • Sudden onset of persistent pain in the upper central abdomen (epigastric area).
  • The pain often radiates to the mid-back, left upper quadrant, and maybe to the left shoulder.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • The pain is typically persistent, but it may become partially relieved

The following are the most common viral causes and their respective symptoms:

  1. Hepatitis A: fever, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and jaundice.
  2. Hepatitis B, C, D, and E: may be asymptomatic. In severe cases, jaundice and liver pain are present.
  3. Coxsakievirus: Sore throat.
  4. Echovirus: skin rashes, mouth sores, difficulty breathing, and harsh cough.
  5. Hemorrhagic fever viruses: Fever, general fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches.
  6. Cytomegalovirus: fever, muscle aches, rashes, sore throat.
  7. Varicella-Zoster virus: skin rashes, pain, numbness, and tingling. Blisters and itching.
  8. Mumps: painful swollen salivary glands in one or both sides of your face, fever, pain while chewing or swallowing.
  9. Measles: high fever, diffuse rash, runny nose, and cough.
  10. Herpes simplex virus: Pain and itching, small red bumps and tiny white blisters, ulcers, and scabs.

Which is the most likely to cause pancreatitis?

Gallstones are the most likely cause of pancreatitis. Alone, gallstones are responsible for up to 70% of cases of acute pancreatitis. The second most cause is alcoholism.

Both gallstones and alcohol are not contagious. For example, if a person catches pancreatitis due to gallstones or alcohol intake, you will not get infected from him.