© 2020 The Author(s). Background: Numerous publications suggest an association between herpes virus infection and idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF). These reports have employed immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization and/or PCR, which are susceptible to specificity artifacts. Methods: We investigated the possible association between IPF and viral RNA expression using next-generation sequencing, which has the potential to provide a high degree of both sensitivity and specificity. We quantified viral RNA expression for 740 viruses in 28 IPF patient lung biopsy samples and 20 controls. Key RNA-seq results were confirmed using Real-time RT-PCR for select viruses (EBV, HCV, herpesvirus saimiri and HERV-K). Results: We identified sporadic low-level evidence of viral infections in our lung tissue specimens, but did not find a statistical difference for expression of any virus, including EBV, herpesvirus saimiri and HERV-K, between IPF and control lungs. Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first publication that employs RNA-seq to assess whether viral infections are linked to the pathogenesis of IPF. Our results do not address the role of viral infection in acute exacerbations of IPF, however, this analysis patently did not support an association between herpes virus detection and IPF.