La Crosse virus (LACV) is the primary cause of pediatric viral encephalitis in the United States. Although the virus infects both adults and children, over 80% of the reported neurological disease cases are in children. To understand why LACV causes neurological disease primarily in young animals, we used a mouse model where weanling mice, but not adult mice, develop neurological disease following virus infection. We found that an early immune response cell type, myeloid dendritic cells, was critical for protection in adult animals and that these cells were reduced in young animals. Activation of these cells during virus infection or after treatment with type I interferon in young animals provided protection from LACV. Thus, this study demonstrates a reason for susceptibility to LACV infection in young animals and shows that early therapeutic treatment in young animals can prevent neurological disease.