Cytomegalovirus latently infects myeloid cells; however, the acute effects of the virus on this cell subset are poorly characterised. We demonstrate that systemic cytomegalovirus infection induced rapid activation of monocytes in the bone marrow, characterised by upregulation of CD69, CD11c, Ly6C and M-CSF receptor. Activated bone marrow monocytes were more sensitive to M-CSF and less sensitive to granulocyte-monocyte colony stimulating factor in vitro, resulting in the generation of more macrophages and fewer dendritic cells, respectively. Monocyte activation was also observed in the periphery and resulted in significant accumulation of monocytes in the spleen. MyD88 expression was required within the haematopoietic compartment to initiate monocyte activation and recruitment. However, monocytes lacking MyD88 were activated and recruited in the presence of MyD88-sufficient cells in mixed bone marrow chimeras, indicating that once initiated, the process was MyD88 independent. Interestingly, we found that monocyte activation occurred in the absence of the common inflammatory cytokines, namely type I interferons (IFNs), IL-6, TNF-α and IL-1 as well as the NLRP3 inflammasome adaptor protein, ASC. We also excluded a role for the chemokine-like protein MCK-2 (m131/129) expressed by murine CMV. Taken together, these results challenge the notion that a single inflammatory cytokine mediates activation and recruitment of monocytes in response to infection. © 2013 WILEY-VCH Verlag GmbH & Co. KGaA, Weinheim.