By Stephanie Stahl

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PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Bed bugs are more prevalent than many people realize. New research from the University of Pennsylvania highlights the importance of trying to eliminate infestations.

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They’re in thousands of homes with bed bugs being called a public health treat. Now researchers from Penn say laws forcing disclosures about bed bugs could be an effective solution.

Would you want to sleep with these?

(Credit: CBS3)

Here is the even creepier part – you could have bed bugs and not even know.

“They’re super good at hiding in your bed or around your bed,” said Michael Levy, associate professor of epidemiology at Penn. “Coming out at night and sucking blood and then running back and hiding again.”

That nightmarish scenario is played out in an estimated 11 percent of dwellings.

“It’s really a pervasive problem that we don’t like to talk about it very much,” Levy said, “but it’s causing a lot of pain and suffering for many individuals in the city.”

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Levy and a team of epidemiologists at Penn studied the impact of trying to control bed bugs.

“It’s a major health issue, there’s no doubt about it,” Levy said. “Problems that can range from mental health issues to lack of sleep to even some allergies.”

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There is also a danger with people using insecticides incorrectly to try to get rid of bed bugs.

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They can hide not just in beds but in any place where people sleep.

The Penn research found that forcing landlords to disclose infestations can go a long way toward eliminating them.

“If you have a proactive legislation that incentivizes landlords and everyone really to treat for bed bugs promptly, you can really decrease the number of bed bugs quickly,” Levy said.

The legislation is pending in Philadelphia City Council.

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The Penn team says there could be an initial financial impact on landlords, but research shows a cost savings for them within five years.

“I really believe with some proactive legislation,” Levy said, “we can turn the tides on this epidemic and decrease the suffering that everyone in Philadelphia is experiencing from these little insects.”

New York City and San Francisco already have laws in place requiring landlords to disclose bed bugs.

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Experts say the best way to eliminate bed bugs is with a professional exterminators following by careful cleaning, washing and vacuuming.

Stephanie Stahl