The emergence and re-emergence of infectious diseases involves many interrelated factors. Global interconnectedness continues to increase with international travel and trade; economic, political, and cultural interactions; and human-to-human and animal-to-human interactions. These interactions include the accidental and deliberate sharing of microbial agents and antimicrobial resistance and allow the emergence of new and unrecognized microbial disease agents. As the 21st century begins, already new agents have been identified, and new outbreaks have occurred. Solutions to limiting the spread of emerging infectious diseases will require cooperative efforts among many disciplines and entities worldwide. This article defines emerging infectious diseases, summarizes historical background, and discusses factors that contribute to emergence. Seven agents that have made a significant appearance, particularly in the 21st century, are reviewed, including: Ebola and Marburg hemorrhagic fevers, human monkeypox, bovine spongiform encephalopathy, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), West Nile virus, and avian influenza. The article provides for each agent a brief historical background, case descriptions, and health care implications.