Although community-onset bloodstream infection (BSI) is recognized as a major cause of morbidity and mortality, its epidemiology has not been well defined in non-selected populations. We conducted population-based surveillance in the Interior Health West region of British Columbia, Canada in order to determine the burden associated with community-onset BSI. A total of 1088 episodes were identified for an overall annual incidence of 117·8/100 000 of which 639 (58·7%) were healthcare-associated (HA) and 449 (41·3%) were community-associated (CA) BSIs for incidences of 69·2 and 48·6/100 000, respectively. The incidence of community-onset BSI varied by age and gender and elderly males were at the highest risk. Overall 964 (88·6%) episodes resulted in hospital admission for a median length of stay of 8 days; the total days of acute hospitalization associated with community-onset BSI was 13 530 days or 1465 days/100 000 population per year. The in-hospital mortality rate was 10·6% (102/964) and this was higher for HA-BSI (72/569, 12·7%) compared to CA-BSI (30/395, 7·6%, P = 0·014) episodes. Community-onset BSI, especially HA-BSI, is associated with a major burden of illness.