People may use the term “viral heart disease” to describe viral myocarditis. This refers to when a viral infection causes inflammation of heart muscle tissue.

Inflammation is the body’s natural reaction to an infection or injury to the heart. It typically occurs as part of an immune response to help protect the heart. However, long periods of inflammation can weaken and damage the heart, resulting in heart problems.

There are many possible causes of heart inflammation. However, viral infections are a common cause of myocarditis. When a viral infection causes heart inflammation, it is known as viral myocarditis. Other people may also refer to it as viral heart disease.

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Myocarditis involves inflammation in the myocardium. This is the middle muscular layer of the heart wall. In many cases, the exact cause of heart inflammation is unknown. However, viral infections are a common cause of myocarditis. According to a 2022 review, some of the most common viruses that cause viral myocarditis include the following:


SARS-CoV-2 is the virus responsible for COVID-19. A 2023 review highlights that in the United States, COVID-19 was associated with a significant increase in myocarditis. Although rare, there are also reports of people experiencing myocarditis after receiving their COVID-19 vaccination.

While more research is necessary, evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may trigger an autoimmune response that results in heart inflammation.


HIV is a virus that targets and weakens the immune system. This virus attacks white blood cells, which reduces the body’s ability to fight other infections and diseases.

Evidence suggests that roughly one-third of people with an HIV infection may experience myocarditis. This may be directly due to HIV or due to opportunistic infections. A 2017 review suggests that HIV-associated myocarditis is common and can lead to HIV-associated heart failure.

Parvovirus B19

Parvovirus B19 is a virus that can cause a variety of symptoms. A common presentation of parvovirus B19 infection is known as fifth disease, or erythema infectiosum. It is also known as slapped cheek syndrome due to the distinct bright red rash that may occur on one or both cheeks.

A 2022 systematic review and meta-analysis notes a significant relationship between parvovirus B19 infection and myocarditis. A 2022 literature review highlights that parvovirus B19-induced myocarditis can be fatal in children.

Human herpes virus 6 (HHV-6)

HHV-6 refers to a set of herpes viruses, known as HHV-6A and HHV-6B. Evidence suggests that roughly 95% of adults worldwide are positive for at least one variant of HHV-6. This virus can result in a roseola rash. Research notes that health experts are recognizing HHV-6 as a common cause of myocarditis.

Hepatitis C virus (HCV)

HCV can result in hepatitis C. This liver disease is a common blood-borne viral infection that can lead to cirrhosis, liver failure, and liver cancer. A 2021 review notes that HCV can also lead to many different heart problems, including myocarditis.


Influenza, or flu, is a common respiratory illness that results from a viral infection. There are four types of flu virus, with the two most common types being influenza A and influenza B.

Evidence indicates that influenza can result in viral myocarditis. A 2022 literature review suggests that influenza A is more commonly associated with heart problems, such as myocarditis.

Viruses are one of the most common causes of heart inflammation. When an infection leads to myocarditis, health experts refer to it as infective myocarditis.

Myocarditis can occur if the virus infects heart tissue. This can trigger an immune system reaction that may result in inflammation of heart muscle tissue. The immune system has many different defense mechanisms it can use to fight off viruses. Many of these mechanisms can result in inflammation.

For example, when an infection causes tissue damage, the body stimulates a response to help heal these tissues. These signals activate certain immune cells that circulate to the site of damage. These cells can induce an inflammatory response.

This inflammation aims to help remove the virus and initiate healing. However, inflammation can remain after resolving the viral infection, which can put stress on the heart. When inflammation of the heart muscle affects its function, health experts refer to it as inflammatory cardiomyopathy.

Additionally, the viral infection itself can also damage heart tissue. If the virus is able to replicate and the immune system cannot clear the infection, it can lead to the death of heart muscle cells.

Factors that may increase the risk of myocarditis can include:

  • age, with myocarditis occurring more often in young adults
  • sex, as myocarditis is more common in males
  • genetics and a family history of heart problems
  • consumption of too much alcohol
  • recreational drug use
  • certain medical conditions, such as HIV and diabetes
  • certain medications, such as immunosuppressants

It can be difficult to identify myocarditis due to a lack of specific symptoms. In fact, many people with myocarditis may not notice any symptoms. Possible symptoms of myocarditis can include, but are not limited to:

  • chest pain or discomfort, such as a feeling of tightness in the chest
  • shortness of breath
  • fatigue
  • heart palpitations or an irregular heartbeat
  • lightheadedness or fainting
  • flu-like symptoms, such as a high temperature, headaches, body aches, joint pain, or sore throat
  • swelling in the hands, legs, ankles, or feet

Some people report that myocarditis can feel similar to a heart attack. If a person experiences any unexplained chest pain or shortness of breath, it is best to seek immediate medical help.

To diagnose myocarditis, a healthcare professional will initially ask about a person’s health and perform a physical exam. This may include checking for swelling, listening to the heart and lungs, taking the person’s temperature, and feeling for enlargement of the spleen.

Additional tests that a doctor may then request can include:

At present, there is no specific or effective treatment for viral myocarditis. Initial treatment options are supportive and aim to preserve heart functioning. For example, healthcare professionals will treat high blood pressure, irregular heart rhythm, or heart failure.

A doctor may also recommend intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG). This therapy involves infusing a person with antibodies to help control the body’s immune and inflammatory response. However, more research is necessary to determine whether this treatment is effective.

After the infection resolves, a doctor may also consider surgery. Options may include an implantable cardioverter defibrillator or pacemaker. These devices can help control irregular heartbeats or other heart rhythm problems. In some cases, a heart transplant may be necessary to treat heart failure that does not respond to other treatments.

To try to prevent viral myocarditis, health experts recommend practicing good hygiene, such as washing hands often. Additionally, they recommend receiving vaccinations to reduce the risk of viral infections.

Viral heart disease, or viral myocarditis, refers to inflammation of heart muscle tissue following a viral infection. This inflammation can cause damage to the heart, which may result in heart problems.

While more research is necessary to understand the exact mechanism, viral myocarditis likely occurs due to an overreaction of the immune system in response to a viral infection. Many viruses can cause myocarditis. Some examples include SARS-CoV-2, HIV, parvovirus B19, HHV-6, HCV, and influenza.