Genomic analysis is a powerful tool for understanding viral disease outbreaks. Sequencing of viral samples is now easier and cheaper than ever before and can supplement epidemiological methods by providing nucleotide-level resolution of outbreak-causing pathogens. In this review, we describe methods used to answer crucial questions about outbreaks, such as how they began and how a disease is transmitted. More specifically, we explain current techniques for viral sequencing, phylogenetic analysis, transmission reconstruction, and evolutionary investigation of viral pathogens. By detailing the ways in which genomic data can help us understand viral disease outbreaks, we aim to provide a resource that will facilitate the response to future outbreaks.