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3M Ramping Up Face-Mask Production in Response to Coronavirus

3M Co. is increasing production of protective face masks in response to the spread of the deadly Coronavirus
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3M Co. (MMM) - Get 3M Company Report is increasing production of protective face masks in response to the spread of the deadly Coronavirus, the company's top executive said Tuesday.

Demand for face masks and hand sanitizing liquid has soared with the spread of the virus, which has killed 106 people in China and infected more than 4,500. 

CEO Michael Roman said that the St. Paul, Minnesota-based company  is "focused on ramping up 24/7, not only in our China operations but in Asia, Europe and the U.S. to meet that demand," Bloomberg reported.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million in central China, is the epicenter of the outbreak. The city is one of more than a dozen under tight lockdown as the government struggles to contain the virus.

Airlines are suspending flights and global companies are shutting down their locations or telling staff to work from home.

Shares were off 5.5% to $166.02 Tuesday after 3M posted weaker-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings.Industrial sales weakness offset strength in the company's health care division.

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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised U.S. travelers on Tuesday to avoid all non-essential trips to China and U.S. Consulate staffers and other Americans in Wuhan will be evacuated to California on Wednesday.

Regarding the use of face-mask during flu outbreaks, the CDC said on its website that "no recommendation can be made at this time for mask use in the community by asymptomatic persons, including those at high risk for complications, to prevent exposure to influenza viruses."

A 2009 study by the University of New South Wales found that “household use of face masks is associated with low adherence and is ineffective for controlling seasonal respiratory disease.”

“However, during a severe pandemic when use of face masks might be greater, pandemic transmission in households could be reduced,” the report said.

“Masks of any kind would be helpful because then they are covering up your nose and mouth so they aren’t going to touch those, but they still leave your eyes open so you can touch and transmit the virus that way,” Michael Ison, an infectious disease specialist with Northwestern Medicine, told the Huffington Post.

The CDC does recommend that healthcare providers wear N95 respirators, face masks that filter at least 95% of airborne particles, if they treat a patient infected with the novel coronavirus, CNN reported.

The global face mask market value is almost $4.6 billion, according to a recent Market Study Report. In addition to 3M, Honeywell  (HON) - Get Honeywell International Inc. Report and McKesson  (MCK) - Get McKesson Corporation Report operate in the space. 

Honeywell is a holding in Jim Cramer's Action Alerts PLUS member club