MEXICO CITY (AP) — A Mexican nursing supervisor who touched the hearts of the nation when she made a tearful appeal for respect for health care professionals said Tuesday she has tested positive for the new coronavirus.

Fabiana Zepeda is the head of nursing for the Mexican Social Security Institute. The institute republished a Tweet from her account, saying she was self-isolating after testing positive for COVID-19.

In late April, Zepeda appeared at the government’s daily coronavirus press briefing. She said that, at the time, fellow nurses had suffered 21 attacks or instances of abuse since the pandemic began, apparently because of fears they would spread the virus.

Zepeda’s voice broke as she described how nurses have been told not to wear their uniforms on the street to avoid being the target of abuse or discrimination.

“These attacks have hit my profession hard,” Zepeda said. “We are giving our lives in the hospitals.”

The institute wrote in its Twitter account Tuesday that “we know that soon she will show that her greatest strength is never giving up, and we await her return to direct the army of nurses who form the heart of Social Security.”


The novel coronavirus has killed 111 medical personnel in Mexico and the virus has infected between 8,500 and 15,000 hospital staffers. Assistant Health Secretary Hugo López-Gatell said the dead included 66 doctors, 16 nurses and 29 other hospital staff, including support personnel, dentists and lab techs.

There are 8,544 confirmed COVID-19 cases among health professionals in Mexico, and another 6,747 suspected cases, many of which are awaiting test results.

The country’s total coronavirus case load has increased to 38,324 cases, with 3,926 deaths, though officials have acknowledged the true number is probably much higher.

For most people, the new coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some, especially older adults and people with existing health problems, it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.