CTV News has learned of a scabies outbreak in the intensive care unit of the Halifax Infirmary.

The outbreak began with a transplant patient who has been in the cardiovascular intensive care unit on the fifth floor of the hospital for almost two months. It is now affecting 15 nurses, prompting the cancellation of six surgeries on Friday due to a staff shortage.

“We’ve had two confirmed cases among caregivers who have that disease which are being appropriately treated and we have a total of 15, including those two, who have shown up with a pinpoint rash,” says Dr. Greg Hirsch.

The scabies outbreak was confirmed Thursday but CTV News was told that visits and surgeries continued and the patient wasn’t isolated until Friday.

“As soon as we had a diagnosis of what this was, appropriate isolation steps were taken,” says Hirsch.

“Cancellation of surgeries weren’t done just because we had a problem, we continue because they’re life-saving surgeries.”

CTV News has learned that, instead of one-to-one nurse-to-patient ratios in the intensive care unit, there were five nurses for 11 patients in the intensive care unit on Friday.

“This is just the run of a workplace situation and we’re particularly short-staffed today because of this episode,” says Hirsch.

Dr. Ben Khamis, medical health officer for the Capital District Health Authority, says no one should panic over the outbreak.

“It can be treated pretty easily with a lotion or cream,” he says. “The whole family in general should be treated to limit transmission to the community.”

Nova Scotia Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine promised immediate action after learning of the outbreak Friday afternoon. He was especially concerned about the nurse-to-patient ratio on the intensive care unit.

“I’m really disturbed to hear that the number is not the required number,” says Glavine.

He says the issue will be his new deputy minister’s first assignment Monday morning.

It takes weeks for scabies to incubate, so health officials say it is too soon to say how far the outbreak has spread.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Rick Grant