Chemical giant CEO Dow: Coronavirus issues has increased demand for cleaning products

Jim Fitterling, CEO of Dow, said that the outbreak of coronavirus is driving demand for some of the company's products used in household cleaning products.

Chemical giant CEO Dow: Coronavirus issues has increased demand for cleaning products

Jim Fitterling, speaking on "Squawk on the street" after his company exceeded shareholder expectations for its fourth quarter, said Dow's cleaning products are seeing increased demand as a result of the rapidly spreading virus.

A coronavirus is a kind of common virus that causes your nose, sinus or upper throat to become infected. Most coronaviruses are non-hazardous. Nevertheless, certain forms of coronaviruses are dangerous. Approximately 858 people have died from Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which first appeared in Saudi Arabia in 2012 and then in other Middle East, Africa, Asia and Europe nations. The first American was hospitalized in Indiana in April 2014 for MERS, and another case was reported in Florida. A MERS outbreak occurred in Korea in May 2015, which was the largest outbreak outside of the Arab Peninsula. In 2003, 774 people died as a result of an outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). There were no further reports of SARS cases as of 2015. 

But the World Health Organization reported a new type, 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV), in early 2020, following an outbreak in China in December 2019. Most coronaviruses spread the same way as other cold-causing viruses do: by coughing and sneezing infected people, by touching the hands or the face of an infected person, or by touching objects like doorballs that have touched infected people.

Dow business segment saw some demand pull from coronavirus on things like cleaning disinfectant materials for use in household cleaners; nonwovens for masks and wipes and things like that, "Fitterling said. "And I guess, as you see people staying at home and eating more food from the grocery store, you will also see a tug on the packaging.”

Jim Fitterling said he's unsure what the virus ' overall impact would be for Dow, who sees Asia as an area of development. "I haven't seen a massive negative effect from the coronavirus yet, but we're going to watch it," he said, as the confirmed cases of the outbreak that began in China crossed over 6,000 with over 130 deaths.

Dow isn't the only company that is seeing an increase in demand for certain products due to the virus. 3 M CEO Mike Roman said his company is "going 24/7" producing protective masks. While concerns about coronavirus may help some businesses, it could slow economic growth in Asia, and particularly in China, which has implemented travel restrictions to combat spread.