A small farming community southeast of Three Hills is mourning the loss of a 19-year-old woman believed to have succumbed to a rare mosquito-borne virus picked up in Australia.
Carlie Bell died in a Calgary hospital on Monday less than two weeks after she returned from a six-month farm exchange in New Zealand followed by a 10-day sightseeing trip in Australia.
Media outlets from that country reported she contracted a disease known as Murray Valley encephalitis virus while touring the Northern Territory. The disease, which only rarely causes illness or death, is also blamed for the deaths of two Australian men this year.
Bell’s family and the community of Orkney, about 40 km southeast of Three Hills, have been devastated by the death of the teen who had graduated from Three Hills School and wanted to become a teacher, said family friend Pastor Sweis Ubels on Thursday.
“It was just a shock to that whole community,” said Ubels, who is pastor at the Manor Gospel Church just east of Three Hills. “The houses are a long way apart but the community is really tight.”
While the Bells were at Carlie’s bedside in hospital, neighbours gathered to seed the family’s crops for them.
Ubels described Carlie, the oldest of two sons and two daughters, as “absolutely amazing.
“If you were to ask me beforehand who is the best girl you know I probably would have given you her name. She was always thinking of other people. She was always putting others first.”
Ubels said Bell was a quiet, serious girl with a deep religious faith. “She had this incredible faith in God and this intimate relationship with Jesus. And it showed.
“The love of God just flowed through her to other people and people around her were the beneficiaries of that.”
Bell fell ill shortly after returning home on May 13. She was taken to Drumheller Hospital with a high fever on Sunday and was transferred by STARS to Calgary.
A funeral service will take place on Saturday at 2 p.m. in the Drumheller Church of the Nazarene.