Although pertussis is increasingly recognized as a cause of prolonged cough illness in adolescents and adults, its prevalence is not well established. We evaluated pertussis infection in 442 adolescents and adults > or = 12 years old (mean age, 41.3 years) who had a cough-related illness of 7--56 days' duration. For 4 patients (0.9%), results of nasopharyngeal culture or PCR were positive for Bordetella pertussis; for 10 patients (2.3%), either results of culture or PCR were positive or pertussis antibody titers increased 4-fold. Eighty-eight patients (19.9%) had either laboratory-confirmed pertussis or laboratory evidence of pertussis. These patients had significantly longer duration of cough than did patients without laboratory evidence of pertussis (56 days vs. 46 days), and more of them had vomiting with cough (45.5% vs. 28.5%, respectively). Pertussis is a common cause of prolonged cough illness in adolescents and adults and is frequently associated with other symptoms of whooping cough.