More than 100 years ago, an epidemic, similar to the one we are currently witnessing on a global scale, took place in Cavtat. Namely, in the middle of June 1919, the smallpox disease broke out in Cavtat. It arrived in Cavtat in mid-May of the same year, brought by a woman who returned home from northern Italy, where the disease had already been rampant for some time. The disease spread rapidly through the town and affected 19 of its residents regardless of their age. The central part of Cavtat, better known as Prijeko, was particularly affected because the aforementioned woman lived there. During the epidemic, the local school was closed from the 26th of June until the end of the school year on the 31st of July. In order to prevent the disease from spreading to the surrounding area, a blockade was imposed, which barred Konavle residents and fellow local residents from entering the Prijeko street, while all shops in Cavtat were closed. The blockade in question required an increase in the number of police officers in the town. Furthermore, due to the deaths of several patients in the short period from the 13th to the 16th of July, a strict quarantine was imposed on the local population, preventing people from both entering and exiting Cavtat. The quarantine lasted for a short time, a period of only four days, due to the protests from the municipal delegates holding office at that time, who stated that the locals would begin starving to death unless the quarantine was lifted.
Three local residents died from the infection. The first of them passed away suddenly on the 25th of June. She was buried in the evening in the tomb for people of other religious traditions, while the others were buried outside the St Roch Cemetery, on the north side of the hill. The then parish priest, The Reverend Father Ivo Božić, noted that he was ready to help wherever he was invited at all times. He did not have time to administer the Anointing of the Sick to the first deceased; therefore, in order to avoid such omissions in the future, he would frequently visit the homes of the infected of his own accord. During one of his visits, he came across a man covered with smallpox sores to whom he offered spiritual help; the man refused it, claiming that he `did not feel it was his time to pass over to the other side’, as the Reverend himself noted in the parish chronicle. He also recorded a case of unexpected recovery of Nike Modrinić, a wife of a certain Nikola Modrinić. Namely, although a death knell had already announced her passing on the 18th of July, Reverend Ivo found the woman alive at her home, sitting in bed and drinking white coffee.
The disease disappeared from Cavtat at the end of July thanks to a timely diagnosis by a physician from Kotor, who visited the town for the sole purpose of treating those afflicted by it. He ordered that the houses of those afflicted by the smallpox be disinfected and that the healthy residents of Cavtat be vaccinated; the vaccinations were carried out with the help of the local physicians, Dr Bendoni and Dr Wagner.