The term “pathogen emergence” encompasses everything from previously unidentified viruses entering the human population to established pathogens invading new populations and the evolution of drug resistance. Mathematical models of emergent pathogens allow forecasts of case numbers, investigation of transmission mechanisms, and evaluation of control options. Yet, there are numerous limitations and pitfalls to their use, often driven by data scarcity. Growing availability of data on pathogen genetics and human ecology, coupled with computational and methodological innovations, is amplifying the power of models to inform the public health response to emergence events. Tighter integration of infectious disease models with public health practice and development of resources at the ready has the potential to increase the timeliness and quality of responses.