From 1989 to 1998, the incidence of pertussis increased in Massachusetts adolescents and adults, reaching 71 and 5 per 100,000, respectively, by 1998, whereas the incidence in children remained stable. By 1998, 92% of cases occurred in adolescents and adults. Nationally, in contrast, adolescents and adults had incidences of only 5 and 0.8 per 100,000, respectively, and accounted for 47% of cases. The availability of a specific serologic test and active surveillance by public health personnel in Massachusetts are at least partial explanations. The rise in incidence may be real, however, because, as diagnostic efforts increased, the percentage of patients with a positive serologic test result also increased. Cases identified in adolescents and adults were quite severe: 83% and 87%, respectively, experienced paroxysmal cough, 45% and 41% experienced vomiting, and 41% and 52% experienced a cough lasting >4 weeks. Administration of acellular pertussis vaccine in these age groups could prevent this substantial morbidity.