Who Is Cheryl Cole and Why Does She Have Malaria?

07/06/2010 at 02:35 PM EDT

Who Is Cheryl Cole and Why Does She Have Malaria?
Cheryl Cole
Joel Ryan/AP
It's been a rough year for Cheryl Cole. Not only did the Brit file for divorce in May from her husband of four years, but now she's been stricken with malaria.

So just who is this woman whose name's been floating around the Web recently? And how did she get a disease that hasn't afflicted Westerners since they dug the Panama Canal?

Cole rose to U.K. fame in 2002 after becoming a member of pop group Girls Aloud. In 2008, she joined Simon Cowell as one of the judges of X Factor, a British singing competition. She's also been noted for her style, gracing the covers of British Vogue, Elle and Harper's Bazaar. Last year, she became the new face of L'Oreal.

But the British beauty, 27, who will be the opening act for select European dates of the Black Eyed Peas' E.N.D. World Tour, collapsed Saturday during a photo shoot for her album.

A spokesperson says she's being treated in a London hospital for malaria, a mosquito-borne disease typically spread in tropical areas. Cole reportedly just returned from a trip to Tanzania, had to cancel all work this week.

Malaria, which is preventable to those who are immunized and curable, has been all but eradicated in the developed countries, but still plagues other parts of the world. The World Health Organization says nearly 1 million people died of malaria in 2008, mostly African children.

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