The emergence and spread of infectious diseases with pandemic potential occurred regularly throughout history. Major pandemics and epidemics such as plague, cholera, flu, severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus (SARS-CoV) and Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) have already afflicted humanity. The world is now facing the new coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Many infectious diseases leading to pandemics are caused by zoonotic pathogens that were transmitted to humans due to increased contacts with animals through breeding, hunting and global trade activities. The understanding of the mechanisms of transmission of pathogens to humans allowed the establishment of methods to prevent and control infections. During centuries, implementation of public health measures such as isolation, quarantine and border control helped to contain the spread of infectious diseases and maintain the structure of the society. In the absence of pharmaceutical interventions, these containment methods have still been used nowadays to control COVID-19 pandemic. Global surveillance programs of water-borne pathogens, vector-borne diseases and zoonotic spillovers at the animal-human interface are of prime importance to rapidly detect the emergence of infectious threats. Novel technologies for rapid diagnostic testing, contact tracing, drug repurposing, biomarkers of disease severity as well as new platforms for the development and production of vaccines are needed for an effective response in case of pandemics.