Tributes continue to flow for a young Bacchus Marsh father who died of influenza last week – a victim of the most widespread epidemic in
15 years.

Ben Ihlow, 30, was a healthy and devoted dad when he was struck down by the flu on what should have been his first Father’s Day with his baby son.

Family and friends farewelled the devoted father last Thursday at his funeral in Bacchus Marsh.

The family is well loved in the Moorabool community where Mr Ihlow worked at the local supermarket and his wife, Samantha, works as a teacher. The couple welcomed their first child, Andrew, just 10 months ago.

A Myrniong Primary School community group has launched an online crowdfunding appeal that has raised more than $29,000.

“He was a warm and generous man with a loving wife and young son who is yet to turn one,” the online campaign said. “His death has come as a great shock to all and as a community we want to help support Samantha and the couple’s baby for their future.”

Mr Ihlow’s uncle, Neil Adams, said the family was devastated by the loss of the “bubbly and bright man” who was in the prime of life.

“Everyone’s in shock, because it was so sudden,” he said. “He got sick on the Monday, just had a bit of a bug.”

By Friday, Mr Ihlow’s condition had deteriorated and he was taken to hospital, where he died on Sunday.

The state health department has declared this flu season the worst in years, with the number of confirmed cases up 81 per cent from 2016.

Mr Ihlow’s death comes as an eighth person died after a flu outbreak at an aged-care facility in Victoria.

More than 11,800 cases of influenza have been reported in Victoria this year.

Donate to the appeal here.