The expected time to extinction of a herpes virus is calculated from a rather simple population-dynamical model that incorporates transmission, reactivation and fade-out of the infectious agent. We also derive the second and higher moments of the distribution of the time to extinction. These quantities help to assess the possibilities to eradicate a reactivating infection. The key assumption underlying our calculations is that epidemic outbreaks are fast relative to the time scale of demographic turnover. Four parameters influence the expected time to extinction: the reproduction ratio, the reactivation rate, the population size, and the demographic turn-over in the host population. We find that the expected time till extinction is very long when the reactivation rate is high (reactivation is expected more than once in a life time). Furthermore, the infectious agent will go extinct much more quickly in small populations. This method is applied to bovine herpes virus (BHV) in a cattle herd. The results indicate that without vaccination, BHV will persist in large herds. The use of a good vaccine can induce eradication of the infection from a herd within a few decades. Additional measures are needed to eradicate the virus from a whole region within a similar time-span.