Characterizing the force of infection (FOI) is an essential part of planning cost effective control strategies for zoonotic diseases. Echinococcus multilocularis is the causative agent of alveolar echinococcosis in humans, a serious disease with a high fatality rate and an increasing global spread. Red foxes are high prevalence hosts of E. multilocularis. Through a mathematical modelling approach, using field data collected from in and around the city of Zurich, Switzerland, we find compelling evidence that the FOI is periodic with highly variable amplitude, and, while this amplitude is similar across habitat types, the mean FOI differs markedly between urban and periurban habitats suggesting a considerable risk differential. The FOI, during an annual cycle, ranges from (0.1,0.8) insults (95% CI) in urban habitat in the summer to (9.4, 9.7) (95% CI) in periurban (rural) habitat in winter. Such large temporal and spatial variations in FOI suggest that control strategies are optimal when tailored to local FOI dynamics.