The end of World War I on the territory of the Southern Balkans and on the territory of today’s Macedonian state, in addition to major military destruction and victims of military operations, was marked with the outbreak of the Spanish flu epidemic. The disease, caused by the H1N1 influenza virus with unusual intensity, quickly spread not only among soldiers and warring parties leading the final battles of World War I, but also among the inhabitants of the areas where the hostilities took place.
The virus was also quickly spread by soldiers returning from the fronts, the fact-checking service Truthmeter explains in its analysis of the available facts about that pandemic.
The Spanish flu epidemic, which broke out in the spring months (1918), was considered the most terrible episode of disease in modern history until the appearance of the current pandemic of COVID – 19.
The reason for this was because it managed, in just 18 months, from 1918 to 1920, to infect about 500 million people and kill about 50 million worldwide, or about 3 to 4 percent of the world’s population at the time. Given that the world was not yet fully recovered from the largest and deadliest war to date, with a huge number of severely ill and wounded, neither the final numbers of deaths from the Spanish flu nor the Spanish fever as it has been called, can be precisely set, so some estimates for the victims of this global pandemic rise to 100 million deaths.
There is historical data that the Spanish flu has passed through the territory of the today’s Republic of North Macedonia, but due to the historical circumstances and difficulties with which the records of the dead, infected and cured soldiers and civilians were kept on all three sides (Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece) that controlled it at the time, it was difficult to find and synthesize the total numbers. Therefore, the available data is very modest, and the collected testimonies about the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic in Macedonia are very rare.
The difficulty of determining the actual numbers of people infected and dead from the Spanish flu in the Balkans is also pointed out in the scientific paper “The geography and mortality of the 1918 influenza pandemic” by American authors David Patterson and Gerald Pyle, where it is stated that figures cannot be determined “due to military and administrative obstacles”.
Estimates of number of victims range in hundreds of thousands, in the territory that had about 900.000 inhabitants in 1910, according to the book “History and geography: meetings and permeations” by Serbian author Sofija Božić.
Read the whole analysis on the website of the Truthmeter.