The innate immune system senses infection by detecting either evolutionarily conserved molecules essential for the survival of microbes or the abnormal location of molecules. Here we demonstrate the existence of a previously unknown innate detection mechanism induced by fusion between viral envelopes and target cells. Virus-cell fusion specifically stimulated a type I interferon response with expression of interferon-stimulated genes, in vivo recruitment of leukocytes and potentiation of signaling via Toll-like receptor 7 (TLR7) and TLR9. The fusion-dependent response was dependent on the stimulator of interferon genes STING but was independent of DNA, RNA and viral capsid. We suggest that membrane fusion is sensed as a danger signal with potential implications for defense against enveloped viruses and various conditions of giant-cell formation.