Upon activation of Toll-like and RIG-I-like receptor signaling pathways, the transcription factor IRF5 translocates to the nucleus and induces antiviral immune programs. The recent discovery of a homozygous mutation in the immunoregulatory gene guanine exchange factor dedicator of cytokinesis 2 (Dock2mu/mu) in several Irf5-/- mouse colonies has complicated interpretation of immune functions previously ascribed to IRF5. To define the antiviral functions of IRF5 in vivo, we infected backcrossed Irf5-/- × Dock2wt/wt mice (here called Irf5-/- mice) and independently generated CMV-Cre Irf5fl/fl mice with West Nile virus (WNV), a pathogenic neurotropic flavivirus. Compared to congenic wild-type animals, Irf5-/- and CMV-Cre Irf5fl/fl mice were more vulnerable to WNV infection, and this phenotype was associated with increased infection in peripheral organs, which resulted in higher virus titers in the central nervous system. The loss of IRF5, however, was associated with only small differences in the type I interferon response systemically and in the draining lymph node during WNV infection. Instead, lower levels of several other proinflammatory cytokines and chemokines, as well as fewer and less activated immune cells, were detected in the draining lymph node 2 days after WNV infection. WNV-specific antibody responses in Irf5-/- mice also were blunted in the context of live or inactivated virus infection and this was associated with fewer antigen-specific memory B cells and long-lived plasma cells. Our results with Irf5-/- mice establish a key role for IRF5 in shaping the early innate immune response in the draining lymph node, which impacts the spread of virus infection, optimal B cell immunity, and disease pathogenesis.