Swine flu is propelling the demand for protective face masks and makers of the respirators are buffing up production. Kimberly Clark ( KMB) and 3M ( MMM) both announced today they are increasing manufacturing to keep up with orders from pharmacies like Rite-Aid ( RAD) and CVS ( CVS).

The product in demand is the N95 respirator, which filters out particles that may contain bacteria viruses. These differ from regular surgical masks, which are designed to contain saliva of the person wearing them, rather than keep particles out.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, the mask is not a requirement and there is little evidence it will actually help prevent the swine flu.

Shares of 3M were up 2% in afternoon trading to $57.48, while Kimberly Clark saw shares fall slightly to $49.61.

Drugstores are also poised to benefit from the sales of these masks, as well as hygiene items like hand sanitizers.
Copyright 2009 TheStreet.com Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. AP contributed to this report.

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