BRUSSELS – The European Union has blocked poultry imports from Bulgaria until the end of January following an outbreak of the highly contagious Newcastle disease, the European Commission said yesterday. The EU ban applies to fresh poultry meat and associated meat products, also coming from farmed and feathered game. Shipments of live poultry, hatching eggs and meat from flightless birds known as ratites would also be prohibited, it said. The outbreak occurred in the Kardjali region close to Bulgaria’s border with Greece and Turkey. EU vets will review the import ban at a two-day meeting scheduled to start on January 11, the Commission said in a statement. Newcastle disease can be fatal to poultry but causes, at worst, a minor illness in humans. Chickens are the most susceptible poultry – ducks and geese are the least – although hosts for the virus can be both wild and domestic birds. It differs from avian flu, the virus that has ravaged Asia and caused more than 20 human deaths there this year. Symptoms include gasping and coughing, drooping wings, twisting of head and neck, partial or complete cessation of egg production and swelling of tissues around eyes and neck.