When the head of the World Health Organisation warns the coronavirus, now rebranded as "COVID-19", could be a greater global threat than terrorism, and says a vaccine could be at least 18 months away you have to take him seriously.
This is, after all, the fact-driven organisation that has consistently refused to declare this a global health emergency or to call the virus a "pandemic" on the sensible grounds mass infections have only occurred in China.
WHO chief, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, is a person who chooses his words carefully.
It's no wonder his comments, at the start of a meeting to discuss the outbreak in Geneva, made headlines around the world.
"With 99 per cent of cases in China, this remains very much an emergency for that country," he said. "But (it) is one that holds a very grave threat for the rest of the world... a virus is more powerful in creating political, economic and social upheaval than any terrorist attack".
The comments coincided with reports the number of cases was now more than 43,000, 42,708 of whom are in mainland China, and that the death toll had climbed to more than 1100.
One "superspreader" apparently infected another 11 people in the UK alone, there are fears the virus may be present in a British prison and up to 30 people have been checked for the disease in the ACT.
While SARS, which killed 774 people in 2002-2003, ran its course before a commercially viable vaccine could be fully tested, COVID-19 is significantly more infectious.
While the mortality rate is lower than for SARS, it has made a lot more people very sick indeed.
Patients require a very high level of care. This is stretching health services in many parts of mainland China to breaking point.
Thousands of doctors and nurses have been infected while helping others.
Thousands of doctors and nurses are reported to have been infected while trying to help others.
Dr Li, the Wuhan opthamologist censured for trying to get the word out, died last week. The Chinese government has since belatedly "removed" several senior officials from the Hubei Health Commission.
Concerns are also growing about the impact the outbreak will have on the Chinese, and global, economies in the weeks and months to come.
Major stock markets, including the ASX and Wall Street, took hits during SARS but have proven surprisingly resilient this time around. Given the likelihood of a long wait for a vaccine, this might not be the case for much longer.
There have already been significant falls on Asian stock markets. China is much more deeply embedded into the global economy than it was 18 years ago.
Megacity-wide lockdowns and factory closures have already led to supply chain interruptions which, in turn, have led to factory closures in Europe and the US.
Thanks to the miracle of globalisation few, if any, sophisticated products such as cars and computers are made in one country with exclusively locally sourced components any more.
It is impossible to predict how all the consequences will play out before the outbreak has run its course.
Initial criticism of the Australian government's decision to impose stringent quarantine conditions and travel bans was premature.
With the situation still worsening by the day it is to be hoped the current precautions are subject to constant review and will, if necessary, be made even stronger.
The last thing we want after our summer of fires, smoke and floods is a mass disease outbreak as well.