"Emerging" infectious diseases can be defined as infections that have newly appeared in a population or have existed but are rapidly increasing in incidence or geographic range. Among recent examples are HIV/AIDS, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, Lyme disease, and hemolytic uremic syndrome (a foodborne infection caused by certain strains of Escherichia coli). Specific factors precipitating disease emergence can be identified in virtually all cases. These include ecological, environmental, or demographic factors that place people at increased contact with a previously unfamiliar microbe or its natural host or promote dissemination. These factors are increasing in prevalence; this increase, together with the ongoing evolution of viral and microbial variants and selection for drug resistance, suggests that infections will continue to emerge and probably increase and emphasizes the urgent need for effective surveillance and control. Dr. David Satcher's article and this overview inaugurate Perspectives, a regular section in this journal intended to present and develop unifying concepts and strategies for considering emerging infections and their underlying factors. The editors welcome, as contributions to the Perspectives section, overviews, syntheses, and case studies that shed light on how and why infections emerge, and how they may be anticipated and prevented.