The role of Haemophilus influenzae in acute purulent conjunctivitis was studied during an outbreak among children in day care. Five day-care centers contributed 20 cases and 35 controls. All the children were subjected to culture of the nasopharynx and the eyes. H. influenzae was carried in the nasopharynx of 53% of the children (range between day care centers, 20 to 91%). Of the 20 children with acute conjunctivitis 8 had eye cultures positive for H. influenzae, 2 had Moraxella and the remaining were culture-negative. Ten colonies of H. influenzae were isolated from each positive culture and identified by capsular type, biotype and multi-locus enzyme electrophoresis. All but one of the isolates were nonencapsulated. They belonged to 4 biotypes and 8 electrophoretic types. The same strain was recovered from the eyes and nasopharynx of the symptomatic children, suggesting that the H. influenzae in the eyes originated from the nasopharynx. There was no evidence for spread of the same H. influenzae strains between day-care centers. Even within each center the Haemophilus strains recovered from the eyes varied among the symptomatic children. The in vitro capacity to attach to oropharyngeal epithelial cells was not increased among the H. influenzae recovered from the eyes. The results question if the majority of conjunctivitis cases were caused by H. influenzae and suggested that eyes were colonized with the nasopharyngeal carrier strain rather than infected by an isolate with special virulence for the eye.