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Can mistake-prone CDC contain Ebola in U.S.?

Two Ebola-stricken Americans will be quarantined at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Two Ebola-stricken Americans will be quarantined at Emory University Hospital in Atlanta.
Photo by Jessica McGowan/Getty Images

The same government agency that lost and mishandled deadly viruses at its U.S. labs is bringing two Ebola-stricken Americans back from Africa for unknown treatment.

The Centers for Disease Control maintains there is “no significant risk” to America — even as the agency issued travel warnings for the three African nations where Ebola casualties are mounting into the thousands.

“Ebola is worsening in West Africa,” CDC Director Thomas Frieden acknowledged.

On Monday, President Obama will host an African summit in Washington. Delegations from Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone — the epicenter of the Ebola outbreak — were on the invitation list.

Unfazed by the deepening health crisis in the region, Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national security adviser, told the Associated Press: “We are less focused on resources from Africa and more focused on deepening trade and investment relationships.”

The presidents of the three most affected nations have canceled their trips to the White House, declaring a health emergency.

One American Ebola victim — a Texas doctor — was evacuated from Liberia to Atlanta by the CDC in a specially equipped air ambulance. He has been quarantined at Emory University Hospital since Saturday.

An infected missionary nurse from Charlotte, N.C., is scheduled to follow Tuesday.

Both are listed in stable but grave condition.

“CDC’s role is to ensure that travel and hospitalization is done to minimize risk of spread of infection,” the CDC said in a statement.

But in a less-than-reassuring comment on CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Frieden said, “I don’t think it’s in the cards that we would have widespread Ebola in this country.”

With no known cure or vaccine for Ebola, the CDC is sending 50 staffers to West Africa to advise countries on controlling the highly contagious disease.

The CDC’s list of “Legal Authorities for Isolation and Quarantine” does not mention Ebola, but a presidential executive order does.

Quietly, Ebola, which has a 90 percent mortality rate, has been under study at the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases at Fort Detrick, Md., where primates are exposed to the virus.

For humans, the CDC maintains 20 quarantine stations around the country. The agency has not disclosed the costs of transport or operation.

Watchdog.org reported last month that the CDC came under fire for failing to secure anthrax, smallpox and avian flu viruses at it labs.

Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wants the State Department to ban citizens and recent travelers in the three countries from entering the U.S.

Grayson’s office said the Obama administration has not responded his request.