Purple top is a phytosanitary problem affecting potato farmers in Ecuador. Since its emergence, stakeholders implement – with limited success – isolated efforts to reduce the spread of this problem. Hence, this study aimed to derive stakeholders’ enabling responses to manage the spread of emerging plant diseases and pests, and to analyse the spread of purple top in Ecuador together with the responses of the stakeholders. We review 108 articles on human, animal, and plant epidemics to derive enabling responses to manage the spread of emergent diseases and pests. Then, we describe the spread of purple top and stakeholders’ responses using an innovation history analysis approach. Our results show that managing epidemics calls for collaboration and coordination, communication and raising awareness, design and implementation of interventions, funding, supporting regulations and policies, research, and surveillance. We show that the complexity of the diagnosis of causal agent(s) of purple top caused uncertainty among stakeholders. Each actor experienced the purple top’s epidemic differently depending on her or his role. Poor coordination between scientists and other stakeholders, and lack of political lobby hindered the diagnosis and development of management strategies for purple top. A delayed identification, due to the complexity of the causal agent and poor coordination, can further hinder the mobilisation of necessary resources. Our results together indicate that managing epidemics requires more than identifying the causal agent(s) and vectors. We expect that the findings of this study are useful to improve preparedness for other plant disease epidemics affecting food security crops.