Vulnerable countries, especially in Africa, need to defend themselves against the possible seasonal spread of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in the first half of 2015, the World Health Organization said on Wednesday.

A WHO Emergency Committee recommended steps “to strengthen infection prevention control practices, build capacity of heath care workers and provide protective equipment in vulnerable countries, especially African countries.”

Poor infection control and a lack of expertise and equipment are widely seen as key reasons for the rapid spread of the deadly Ebola virus in three West African countries.

The committee, whose experts issue an update on the disease every three months, also called for improved MERS awareness among pilgrims going to Saudi Arabia for the annual Muslim haj journey and for surveillance of pilgrims during and after haj.

The committee said although there had been significant efforts to strengthen preventative measures against MERS, also known as MERS coronavirus (MERS-CoV), more was needed.