Whooping cough cases hit pre-vaccine level in Utah

The state of Utah has reported 851 cases of whooping cough, also known as pertussis, this year, marking the worst year for the bacterial disease in more than 60 years in the state.

The number of cases is the worst year in the state for pertussis since 1946, which was in the pre-vaccine era of the disease. The higher number of cases may be partly blamed on better testing and more awareness of the highly contagious illness, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.

"We can't afford to let these deadly diseases make a comeback," Charles Pruitt, the medical adviser for child advocacy at Primary Children's Medical Center, said, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. "It should have been eradicated by now, but there's still a group of people out there that don't immunize so it keeps it brewing at a low level."

While no Utah children have died from the disease this year, a child from Idaho died at Primary Children's Hospital. Multiple children have also been hospitalized as a result of the disease.

On a national level, 2012 has been the worst whooping cough outbreak in 50 years. Approximately 29,000 cases have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through September 20, leading to 14 deaths. Wisconsin, Minnesota and Washington have experienced approximately 4,000 cases each this year, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.