Public health departments around the region are teaching people about bed bugs: how to avoid, detect them, and get rid of them. In Baltimore, the message is that neighbors need to help each other manage the problem.
Bed bugs are hitchhikers that crawl between shared walls. That's a problem in a city that's chock-a-block with row houses.
"They could be next door, and you might not know it," says Mike O'Leary of the Baltimore City Health Department. "And when people try to get rid of them on their own, often times they do things that will repel the bugs into their neighbors' home."
O'Leary says if you have bed bugs, you need to tell your neighbors so you can come up with a solution together, instead of sending the bugs back and forth between homes.
Admitting publically that you have bed bugs is a tall order. That's why O'Leary says he's working hard to reduce the stigma associated with the bugs.
"Many people believe there are bed bugs because people are dirty or poor. It has nothing to do with that. Anyone can have bed bugs. Bed bugs are no one's fault. You can pick them up anywhere. I could have them on me now," he says.
Baltimore 311 operators have received 640 calls about bed bugs in the past 12 months. That's more than double the number of calls received in the previous 12-month period.