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Health Highlights: June 21, 2021

James Michael Tyler, Who Played Gunther on 'Friends,' Has Advanced Prostate Cancer

Actor James Michael Tyler, who played Central Perk waiter Gunther on 'Friends,' has revealed that he was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer in September 2018. Tyler is urging all men to get screened for the disease.

"I was diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer, which had spread to my bones," Tyler said on "TODAY" on Monday, NBC News reported. "I've been dealing with that diagnosis for almost the past three years. ... It's stage 4 (now). Late-stage cancer. So eventually, you know, it's gonna probably get me."

The 56-year-old actor said the stage 4 cancer was first detected during an annual checkup.

"I was 56 years old at the time, and they screen for PSA, which is prostate-specific antigen," Tyler said.

"That came back at an extraordinarily high number ... So I knew immediately when I went online and I saw the results of my blood test and blood work that there was obviously something quite wrong there. Nearly immediately, my doctor called me and said 'Hey, I need you to come in tomorrow because I suspect that you may have quite a serious problem with your prostate.'"

He said he was put on hormone therapy, which "worked amazingly for about a year," and enabled him to "go about life regularly" while taking a regimen of three drugs, NBC News reported.

"All I had to do was take a pill in the morning and the night, and boom, life was pretty much normal," said Tyler. "I had it then, but (was) able to function normally. I was feeling fine, honestly. I had no symptoms, I didn't feel any symptoms. And it was very easy to regulate."

However, the cancer eventually spread to his bone and spine, causing paralysis of the lower body. Tyler said he is currently undergoing chemotherapy.

Screening and early diagnosis can lead to far better prognoses for prostate cancer patients, he emphasized.

"There are other options available to men if they catch it before me," Tyler said. "Next time you go in for just a basic exam or your yearly checkup, please ask your doctor for a PSA test. It's easily detectable. ... If it spreads beyond the prostate to the bones, which is most prevalent in my form, it can be a lot more difficult to deal with."


Investigation Starts in 5 States After Imported of Dog Develops Rabies

A public health investigation is underway in Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey and New York after an imported rescue dog was found to have rabies.

At least 12 people were exposed to the dog, which was among 33 dogs and one cat that arrived from Azerbaijan at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago on June 10, the Associated Press reported.

The animals were not in the main cabin of the plane or main terminal of the airport. Travelers who were at the airport are not considered to be at risk, but health officials are checking to see if other animals in the shipment are infected and are still tracking down the pets' new owners.

Rabies no longer regularly spreads among dogs in the United States, but imported animals are considered a risk for new outbreaks.

The infected dog was taken home by a family in Chester County, Pennsylvania, but euthanized after it began acting strangely. It later tested positive for rabies.

This is the fourth incident of rabies in a dog imported into the United States since 2015, the AP reported. Starting July 14, there will be a year-long ban on the importation of dogs from more than 100 countries where rabies is still a problem, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced.

The ban is being imposed because of a spike in the number of puppies denied entry because they weren't old enough to be fully vaccinated, the AP said.


Blood Shortage Causes Surgery Delays in New England

A blood shortage has forced some New England hospitals to delay or reschedule surgeries.

The shortage is due to a combination of factors, including the usual summer decline in blood donations, along with a spike in surgeries driven by operations postponed during the coronavirus pandemic, officials say.

"We haven't seen anything like this in about 30 or 40 years at least," Dr. Vishesh Chhibber, director of transfusion medicine at UMass Memorial Health, told the Boston Globe.

While periodic, localized blood shortages are not uncommon, this shortage is "unprecedented in its scope," according to Dr. Claudia Cohn, chief medical officer for the American Association of Blood Banks.

Typically, there's a five-day supply of blood of all types nationwide, Red Cross of Massachusetts spokesperson Kelly Isenor said. But at the moment, there's only a half-day supply of urgently needed type O blood.

"It's going out faster than it's coming in," Isenor said.


Local Fans Now Allowed to Attend Tokyo Olympics

Some local fans will be allowed to attend the Tokyo Olympics, organizing officials said Monday.

There will be a limit of 50% of capacity up to a maximum of 10,000 spectators for all venues at the games, which are set to begin on July 23, the Associated Press reported.

The decision ignores the advice of Japan's top medical adviser, Dr. Shigeru Omi, as Japan continues to struggle with COVID-19. Last week, he said the safest way to hold the Olympics would be without fans, and previously had called it "abnormal" to hold the Olympics during the pandemic, the AP reported.

Fans from abroad were banned several months ago, and officials say local fans will be under strict rules: They will not be allowed to cheer, must wear masks, and are being told to go straight home afterward.

Organizers say nearly 3.7 million tickets are in the hands of Japanese residents.

Having fans in the venues present a risk not just at the venues, since it causes more circulation on commuter trains, in restaurants and other public spaces, the AP said.

Tokyo and other areas are under "quasi-emergency" status until July 11. This replaced a tougher full state of emergency that was in effect until last weekend. The new rules will allow restaurants to serve alcohol during limited hours.

Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who has favored allowing fans at the Olympics, said before the official announcement that he would bar fans if conditions change.

"If a state of emergency is necessary, I will be flexible and open to no fans in order to achieve that the games give top priority to safety and security for the people," Suga said. "In case of a state of emergency, it is quite possible ... for safe and secure [games] I will not hesitate to have no fans."

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