Infectious animal and zoonotic diseases are important and immediate global disease threats which exhaust resources and place demands on both national and international global animal and human health institutions and infrastructures. These diseases create challenges for industry stakeholders and policy-makers because of their pandemic potential and resultant widespread economic and social disruption. The current outbreak of the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 (disease name COVID-19), which was first detected in the wet markets of Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, offers a contemporary example on which we might reflect about the lessons learned from this research topic – in particular, the importance of transparent data sharing and the development of risk-based evidence for policy-making for zoonotic disease outbreak preparedness and control. COVID-19 has now been detected in 188 international locations despite the closure of the wet markets and imposition of movement restrictions and other interventions to reduce risks of onward transmission. In hindsight, some of the risk management decisions (e.g. quarantining sick and healthy passengers on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the port of Yokohama; euthanasia/killing of companion animals in China) have been political, rather than scientific evidence-based decisions and have resulted in hugely detrimental human and animal health outcomes. This interplay between political, cultural, societal and biological determinants for COVID-19 continues to evolve as the outbreak expands, and it brings into sharp relief, the need for holistic interdisciplinary approaches to understand the complex trade-offs and unintended consequences of disease control policies.