The Ministry of Health (MoH) on Friday dismissed rumours of a deadly virus at Raja Isteri Pengiran Anak Saleha (RIPAS) Hospital but acknowledged that five patients have been infected with an antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

In a statement issued this evening, the ministry said false information was circulating on Whatsapp claiming there had been fatalities in ward 18 due to a spread of ‘virus’. While MoH categorically denied the claims, it did confirm the detection of the vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) bacteria in ward 18 of the hospital.

What is VRE?
VRE is a bacteria commonly found in the urinary tract and intestines, which is resistant to many antibiotics. It usually has no ill effect on healthy persons, but infections can occur in people with compromised immunity.

As of press time, five patients are known to be infected with VRE but are in stable condition. The hospital said it is handling the matter “seriously and proactively”, taking all necessary precautions.

The affected individuals have been isolated from other patients and the hospital is stepping up efforts to maintain a clean and hygienic environment in all wards, and is encouraging patients to wash their hands more frequently.

VRE is a type of bacteria called enterococci which is resistant to many antibiotics including vancomycin. The enterococci bacteria is commonly found in the urinary tract and intestines, and typically causes no ill-effects in healthy persons.

VRE infections usually affect people with compromised immunity, such as those suffering long-term illness and those who have had major surgery. The bacteria can be spread through touch.

In the statement, the ministry urged people refrain from circulating false information on social media and encouraged them to verify any news they receive.

The MoH added that under Brunei law, it is a criminal offence to spread false information that creates chaos and anxiety among the public. Offenders can be charged under Section 34 of the Public Order Act, where the maximum penalty is three years’ imprisonment or a fine of $3,000.

For more information on VRE, members of the public can call the Darussalam Hotline at 123 or visit the ministry’s website.