- An emergency response was triggered by recovery of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) of the South Asia (SOAS) lineage from sewage in southern Israel in April 2013 during routine environmental surveillance. Public health risk assessment necessitated intensification of environmental surveillance in order to facilitate countrywide monitoring of WPV1-SOAS circulation. This involved increasing sampling frequency and broadening the geographical area, for better coverage of the population at risk, as well as modifying sewage testing algorithms to accommodate a newly developed WPV1-SOAS-specific quantitative real-time RT-PCR assay for screening of RNA extracted directly from sewage concentrates, in addition to standard virus isolation. Intensified surveillance in 74 sites across Israel between 1 February and 31 August 2013 documented a sustained high viral load of WPV1-SOAS in sewage samples from six Bedouin settlements and two cities with Jewish and Arab populations in the South district. Lower viral loads and intermittent detection were documented in sampling sites representing 14 mixed communities in three of the five health districts in central and northern Israel. Environmental surveillance plays a fundamental role in routine monitoring of WPV circulation in polio-free countries. The rapid assay specific for the circulating strain facilitated implementation of intensified surveillance and informed the public health response and decision-making.