BEIJING (Reuters) – African swine fever has been detected in pigs being illegally transported in China’s southwestern Sichuan province, the agriculture ministry said on Tuesday.

A total of 435 pigs were being transported from outside Sichuan when the fatal disease was detected, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs said. Some 15 pigs had already died, it said.

Local authorities have already culled all the hogs and disinfected the trucks, and the drivers have been handed over to the police, the ministry said.

African swine fever is a fatal pig disease that was first reported in China in August 2018 and has since spread throughout the country, killing millions of pigs and reducing the size of the herd by more than 40%.

(Reporting by Min Zhang, Beijing monitoring desk and Huizhong Wu; Editing by Alison Williams)