Emerging zoonoses can occur anywhere in the world and the consequences can be severe. The interdependence of people and animals and the many different factors controlling this relationship have converged to create an environment that is conducive to the emergence of zoonotic pathogens. The recent epidemics of SARS, West Nile virus, and avian influenza demonstrate the global importance of emerging diseases and the important role of Veterinary Services in the prevention, detection, diagnosis, surveillance, response and research activities that are needed to address them. In addition, emerging zoonoses of public health concern are also a sobering reminder of the tremendous trade disruptions and socio-economic damage that this group of diseases can cause.

The recent epidemics have also highlighted the importance of creating new and more effective partnerships with the public health sector. Emerging zoonoses are an important reminder of our roles and responsibilities as one of the animal health professions and our obligations to ensure the improvement of the public’s health and well-being.

This Review describes and explains a number of important emerging zoonoses and the factors that have both created their emergence and challenged national Veterinary Services, and the OIE itself, to become more engaged and responsive to these important contemporary problems. It also highlights the dangers of the constant adaptability of pathogens to survive and infect populations of animals and people and rapidly move between these host populations.