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Acute respiratory infections are the most common illnesses experienced by people of all ages worldwide. A portion of hitherto unexplained viral respiratory tract illnesses (RTIs) can now be attributed to the human metapneumovirus (hMPV), which was discovered in 2001. Several surveys on the burden of disease of hMPV infection have been conducted in various study groups and with different diagnostic assays. To estimate the impact of hMPV infection in a hospital setting and in the community at large, we reviewed these surveys to establish the burden of disease of hMPV infection.Published data and our own additional unpublished data on the clinical impact of hMPV infection were reviewed.Worldwide, hMPV infections account for at least 5 to 7% of the RTI in hospitalized children, but immunocompromised and elderly individuals are also at risk. In the general community hMPV infections account for at least 3% of patients who visit a general practitioner for RTI. The seasonality of hMPV infections resembles that for respiratory syncytial virus and influenza virus infections, with recurrent epidemics during the winter months. Clinical symptoms and laboratory findings associated with hMPV infection exhibit a spectrum virtually indistinguishable from those associated with respiratory syncytial virus disease. The development of diagnostic assays must take into account the existence of two hMPV serotypes.