Two-thirds of children with acute idiopathic thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP) have a history of an infectious illness a few days to a few weeks before the onset of thrombocytopenia. In a subset of affected children, identification of a specific virus can be made, such as varicella zoster virus, rubella, Epstein-Barr virus, influenza, or human immunodeficiency type 1 virus, indicating an etiological role for preceding viral infection in these children with ITP. While inhibition of thrombopoiesis has been established to play a role in thrombocytopenia associated with infection with some viruses, it does not appear to play a major role in the etiology of most typical ITP cases. Rather, enhanced clearance of platelets by the reticuloendothelial system is considered to be, at least in part, responsible for the thrombocytopenia which occurs during the viremic phase of acute virus infection or which develops days to weeks following the virus illness. Molecular mimicry between viral antigens and host proteins has been implicated in a number of autoimmune phenomena, and may be involved in the enhanced platelet clearance in virus-associated ITP.