[en] A retrospective epidemiological study (n = 7,875) of neurologically expressed disorders (NED) in ruminants before the onset of the bovine spongiform encephalopathy epidemic (years studied, 1980 to 1997) was carried out in Belgium. The archives of all veterinary laboratories and rabies and transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (TSE) epidemiosurveillance networks were consulted. For all species, a significantly higher number of NED with virological causes (rabies) was reported south of the Sambre-Meuse Valley. During the period 1992 to 1997, for which the data were complete, (i) the predicted annual incidence of NED varied significantly as a function of species and area (higher numbers in areas where rabies was present) but was always above 100 cases per million, and (ii) the mean incidence of suspected TSE cases and, among them, those investigated by histopathological examination varied significantly as a function of species and area. The positive predictive value of a presumptive clinical diagnosis of NED ranged from 0.13 (game) to 0.63 (sheep). Knowledge of the positive predictive value permits the definition of a reference point before certain actions (e.g., awareness and training campaigns) are undertaken. It also shows the usefulness of a systematic necropsy or complementary laboratory tests to establish an etiological diagnosis. TSE analysis of a small, targeted historical sampling (n = 48) permitted the confirmation of one case and uncovered another case of scrapie. The results of the present study help to develop and maintain the quality of the worldwide clinical epidemiological networks for TSE, especially in countries that in the past imported live animals, animal products, and feedstuffs from countries with TSE cases.