When a new problem arises in society, especially a novel health issue, the response of the political establishment is pretty much as follows:
1. The problem does not exist.
2. The problem is extremely rare and, in any case, is declining. There are more important things to worry about.
3. The problem has been highly exaggerated by irresponsible activists and popular journalists.
4. There is a serious problem, and we have been doing everything possible to deal with it from the very begginning.
Both the American response to the AIDS crisis and the British response to mad cow disease followed these stages.
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