Sixty patients died from C. Diff in a 13-month period
Medical experts investigating a hospital infection outbreak linked to about 60 deaths have appealed for those affected by the bug to come forward.
Five hospitals in NI's Northern Trust area were hit by the spread of the Clostridium Difficile bug between June 2007 and August last year.
The patients who died all had C. Diff identified as a factor.
Earlier this year, Health Minister Michael McGimpsey announced a public inquiry into the outbreak.
The inquiry team, headed by Dame Deirdre Hine, former chief medical officer for Wales, began the first stage of its work on Tuesday.
Dame Deirdre said this involved documenting the experiences of patients, relatives, carers and staff.
"We hope that anyone who was affected by the outbreak will contact us to help us to fulfil the task that the minister has given us," she said.
"We urge them to take this opportunity of telling us what happened to them so that we can describe in our report the impact of the outbreak.
"We will then make recommendations that will help the health and social care services in Northern Ireland and elsewhere to take measures to reduce the distress and anxiety caused by such events."
An initial review of the incident, undertaken by the Regulation and Quality Improvement Authority (RQIA), made 17 recommendations designed to improve hygiene and infection control measures within the trust.
The hospitals involved included Antrim Area Hospital, Braid Valley Hospital, Mid-Ulster Hospital, Moyle Hospital and Whiteabbey Hospital.
Dame Deirdre said the inquiry would not repeat the task undertaken by the RQIA but would explore how the outbreak affected those directly involved.
Its objective is to use this information to make recommendations that will help to reduce the distress caused by such outbreaks, she added.
The inquiry team is due to report back to Mr McGimpsey in March next year.
The Inquiry can be contacted in a number of ways:
Telephone: - 028 90517250 / 02890517124
e-mail: - firstname.lastname@example.org
In writing: - Clostridium Difficile Public Inquiry
Premier Business Centre,
20 Adelaide Street,
BELFAST, BT2 8GB