WHOOPING cough rates have skyrocketed across central Victoria in the past year.
More than 340 cases of the potentially lethal pertussis virus have been reported in the Loddon Mallee health region this year, up from 227 in 2014.
That is almost 200 more cases than were reported in 2013.
The Loddon Mallee figures have contributed to a surge in reported whopping cough cases in Victoria.
With a little under three weeks remaining in the year, there have been 4513 cases of whopping cough reported to the Victorian Department of Health.
That is more than 300 more than last year when 4211 cases were reported.
But despite the rise, Eaglehawk Medical Group general practitioner Douglas Barrett said he had not seen much of the virus in a while.
"It obviously varies from practice to practice, but I can't say we've seen a lot of it," Dr Barrett said.
The spike can be attributed to a particularly brutal winter for whooping cough, with the number of diagnosis in the City of Greater Bendigo more than doubling last year's figure.
Fifteen cases alone were recorded during May at Maiden Gully Primary School.
Australia experiences an epidemic of whooping cough about every three or four years.
In 2013, more than 12 000 cases were notified nationally, with just under one-quarter of these occurring in Victoria.
It obviously varies from practice to practice, but I can't say we've seen a lot of it.Dr Douglas Barrett
Victorian Health Department senior media adviser Bram Alexander said Bendigo’s spike in pertussis was by no means an isolated case.
“(The) increase is being seen across the state, it’s part of a consistent picture, not only in the Victoria but across the eastern seaboard,” he said.
Whooping cough usually begins with cold-like symptoms, leading to uncontrollable and violent coughing fits.
It is an airborne virus and easily spread.
Dr Barrett said anyone with whooping cough is urged to avoid pregnant women and children at risk of contracting the virus.
Experts say vaccination is the best defence against whooping cough.