Events in the last decade have taught us that we are now, more than ever, vulnerable to fatal zoonotic diseases such as those caused by haemorrhagic fever viruses, influenza, rabies and BSE/vCJD. Future research activities should focus on solutions to these problems arising at the interface between animals and humans. A 4-fold classification of emerging zoonoses was proposed: Type 1: from wild animals to humans (Hanta); Type 1 plus: from wild animals to humans with further human-to-human transmission (AIDS); Type 2: from wild animals to domestic animals to humans (Avian flu) and Type 2 plus: from wild animals to domestic animals to humans, with further human-to-human transmission (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, SARS). The resulting holistic approach to emerging infections links microbiology, veterinary medicine, human medicine, ecology, public health and epidemiology. As emerging ‘new’ respiratory viruses are identified in many wild and domestic animals, issues of interspecies transmission have become of increasing concern. The development of safe and effective human and veterinary vaccines is a priority. For example, the spread of different influenza viruses has stimulated influenza vaccine development, just as the spread of Ebola and Marburg viruses has led to new approaches to filovirus vaccines. Interdisciplinary collaboration has become essential because of the convergence of human disease, animal disease and a common approach to biosecurity. High containment pathogens pose a significant threat to public health systems, as well as a major research challenge, because of limited experience in case management, lack of appropriate resources in affected areas and a limited number of animal research facilities in developed countries. Animal models that mimic certain diseases are key elements for understanding the underlying mechanisms of disease pathogenesis, as well as for the development and efficacy testing of therapeutics and vaccines. An updated veterinary curriculum is essential to empower future graduates to work in an international environment, applying international standards for disease surveillance, veterinary public health, food safety and animal welfare.