VANCOUVER -- Five staff members at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital have tested positive for COVID-19, prompting Island Health to declare an outbreak of the disease.

The health authority said in a news release Wednesday that it had found "evidence of transmission" of the coronavirus in a transitional care unit at the hospital.

The outbreak is the first one to be declared in the Island Health region since the pandemic began, and one of only a handful of outbreaks outside of the Lower Mainland.

Island Health said the outbreak is limited to one unit at the hospital, which is currently closed to admissions and visitors.

Enhanced cleaning and contact tracing are underway, the health authority said.

All patients on the unit have been informed of the outbreak and are being tested for COVID-19, Island Health said, adding that it is in the process of informing the families of patients who are unable to share information about the outbreak themselves.

The emergency department at NRGH remains open, and no other areas of the hospital are affected, Island Health said.