Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a life-threatening immunological disorder that is characterized by systemic inflammation, widespread organ damage, and hypercytokinemia. Primary HLH is caused by mutations in granule-mediated cytotoxicity, whereas secondary HLH occurs, without a known genetic background, in a context of infections, malignancies, or autoimmune and autoinflammatory disorders. Clinical manifestations of both HLH subtypes are often precipitated by a viral infection, predominantly with Herpesviridae. Exploiting this knowledge, we established an animal model of virus-associated secondary HLH by infecting immunocompetent wild-type mice with the beta-herpesvirus murine CMV.C57BL/6 mice developed a mild inflammatory phenotype, whereas BALB/c mice displayed the clinicopathologic features of HLH, as set forth in the Histiocyte Society diagnostic guidelines: fever, cytopenia, hemophagocytosis, hyperferritinemia, and elevated serum levels of soluble CD25. BALB/c mice also developed lymphadenopathy, liver dysfunction, and decreased NK cell numbers. Lymphoid and myeloid cells were in a hyper-activated state. Nonetheless, depletion of CD8(+) T cells could not inhibit or cure the HLH-like syndrome, highlighting a first dissimilarity from mouse models of primary HLH. Immune cell hyperactivation in BALB/c mice was accompanied by a cytokine storm. Notably, plasma levels of IFN-gamma, a key pathogenic cytokine in models of primary HLH, were the highest. Nevertheless, murine CMV-infected IFN-gamma-deficient mice still developed the aforementioned HLH-like symptoms. In fact, IFN-gamma-deficient mice displayed a more complete spectrum of HLH, including splenomegaly, coagulopathy, and decreased NK cell cytotoxicity, indicating a regulatory role for IFN-gamma in the pathogenesis of virus-associated secondary HLH as opposed to its central pathogenic role in primary HLH.