We investigate the susceptible–infectious–recovered contagion dynamics in a system of self-propelled particles with polar alignment. Using agent-based simulations, we analyze the outbreak process for different combinations of the spatial parameters (alignment strength and Peclet number) and epidemic parameters (infection-lifetime transmissibility and duration of the individual infectious period). We show that the emerging spatial features strongly affect the contagion process. The ordered homogeneous states greatly disfavor infection spreading, due to their limited mixing, only achieving large outbreaks for high values of the individual infectious duration. The disordered homogeneous states also present low contagion capabilities, requiring relatively high values of both epidemic parameters to reach significant spreading. Instead, the inhomogeneous ordered states display high outbreak levels for a broad range of parameters. The formation of bands and clusters in these states favor infection propagation through a combination of processes that develop inside and outside of these structures. Our results highlight the importance of self-organized spatiotemporal features in a variety of contagion processes that can describe epidemics or other propagation dynamics, thus suggesting new approaches for understanding, predicting, and controlling their spreading in a variety of self-organized biological systems, ranging from bacterial swarms to animal groups and human crowds.
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