In developed countries, acute gastroenteritis (AGE) is a major source of morbidity. However, only a few studies have estimated its incidence and the associated medical burden. This population-based study determined the incidence of community-acquired AGE patients seeking medical care and the relative role of various pathogens. Stool samples from patients with AGE presenting to a general practitioner (GP), pediatrician, or specialist in internal medicine for that reason were screened for various bacterial and viral enteropathogens. A control group was established as well. Incidences were calculated by the number of positive patients divided by the general population. The study was performed in north-west Germany in 2004. The incidence of AGE patients requiring medical consultation was 4,020/100,000 inhabitants. Children (<5 years of age) were at the highest risk (13,810/100,000 inhabitants). Of the patients, 6.6% were tested positive for an enteropathogenic bacteria and 17.7% for a viral agent. The predominant pathogens were norovirus (626/100,000) and rotavirus (270/100,000). Salmonella was the most frequently detected bacteria (162/100,000). The results presented confirm AGE and, specifically, AGE of viral origin as a major public health burden in developed countries.