Flu cases in Bendigo are six times higher than at the same time last year, with the "unusual" number of reports doubling in the past few weeks.
This year so far 109 cases of flu have been reported - just 11 cases short of the 2018 total of 120 cases.
Statistics from the Victorian Department of Health show that for the same period of January 1 to May 19, 2018 only 17 cases had been reported.
A "fair proportion" of those admitted to Bendigo Health for treatment have been hospitalised.
Bendigo Health has been preparing for the expected rise in cases since before Christmas.
"We were seeing on average three cases presenting to hospital each week," Bendigo Health director of infection prevention and control Jane Hellsten said.
"A couple of weeks ago it doubled to an average of six or seven cases of confirmed influenza. Not all were admitted but a fair proportion were."
Health experts had been expecting a rise in cases of influenza but the level was unusual.
"We were advised before Christmas that across Victoria there was (set to be) an increase in Influenza A (presentations)," Ms Hellsten said.
"That was spot on.
"From December right through to now we have seen inter-seasonal flu. It's unusual and not seen every year.
"It really means that more flu is circulating in the community. It is an indicator that we will see more cases."
Ms Hellsten said flu cases were set to increase further.
Across the state, 10,931 cases have been recorded to May 19, an increase from the 2197 reports in the same period of 2018. There have been 26 deaths from flu so far reported. In 2018, a total of 11,607 flu cases were recorded in Victoria.ere recorded in Victoria.
"The peak is usually between August and September and because we are already seeing more cases, it could be an indication that we will see a lot more flu this winter," Ms Hellsten said.
"People catch colds more in cold weather because they congregate in warm spaces. It is the people not the spaces that are infectious."
Bendigo Community Health Services director of primary healthcare services Graem Kelly said flu vaccinations were the best prevention and had already been popular this year.
"We're up on (flu vaccination numbers) compared to last year," he said.
"The flow on from that is once people get into a cycle of having a flu shot it's good to keep it up to keep up the protection.
"We have had significant numbers vaccinated this year, including 3000 people in work places."
A spokesman for Department of Health and Human Services said it expected to make more than two million doses of vaccine available to those eligible for free vaccinations.
"The best defence against the flu is getting your flu shot. It's safe, effective and saves lives," he said.
"The flu vaccine changes every year to match different strains of the flu that are circulating. Even if you had the flu vaccine last year, it's important that you get it every year to make sure you're protected for this year's flu season."
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