3M has dramatically boosted production of respiratory face masks in its Chinese factories in response to the sudden rise of a deadly coronavirus in Wuhan, China.
Travelers worldwide armed themselves with respiratory face masks to shield themselves from the virus.
Chinese news agencies reported Friday that 3M had increased production after its plants ran out of stock in at least two locations in China. 3M officials would not confirm that they ran out of masks.
The Maplewood-based giant, however, said it is working diligently to meet customers' needs, said 3M spokeswoman Jennifer Ehrlich in an e-mail. 3M makes respiratory protection products at numerous locations around the world.
"We are working to continue respirator production during the Chinese New Year holiday," she said.
A statement from 3M said the company is working with distributors to meet inventory needs and "end-user demand."
"3M is committed to supporting the public health and governmental response to the coronavirus while maintaining supply to existing customers," the statement said.
So far, the virus has killed at least 41 people in China and infected more than 1,000 worldwide, according to the New York Times.
The United States has confirmed at least two cases, with both patients having returned from China with the virus. One is in Washington state, one in Chicago. There are two suspected cases in Minnesota and an additional 63 suspected cases elsewhere in the United States, state officials confirmed Friday.
China has now banned travel from 13 of its cities, including Wuhan, which has 11 million residents. The United States and other nations are aggressively screening travelers from China for fevers and other flulike symptoms that are common to the virus.
3M manufactures a number of products that are frequently used during natural disasters and health care emergencies, including hand sanitizer. Company officials said they did not yet know if hand sanitizer demand has surged as disease control experts race to contain the coronavirus.
St. Paul-based Ecolab, which also makes hand sanitizers as well as disinfectants and food safety chemicals, is preparing for beefed-up demand amid the latest outbreak, officials said Friday.
Ecolab's health care team has identified specific products and is now bracing to increase production, said Ecolab spokesman Roman Blahoski.
"We expect to see an increase in demand for many of our [cleaning] solutions, including disinfectant and sanitizing products," he said. "We are making sure that customers know that these products are available and can be used" to effectively kill the virus.