Cheryl Cole’s close friend Derek Hough was said to be devastated last night – after blaming himself as she lay seriously ill in hospital battling malaria.
The dancer is distraught after being told she caught the deadly disease on romantic break that he arranged for them
Doctors believe Cheryl was bitten by a mosquito in Tanzania where she and Derek spent six days together last month.
A source said: “He’s mortified by what’s happened and is utterly devastated at what she’s going through – not least because it happened on a trip he’d planned.”
Derek, 25, has been at the Geordie singer’s bedside since she was admitted to London’s private Cromwell hospital on Sunday evening.
Shocked Cheryl, 27, was diagnosed with malaria when she went for urgent tests after collapsing at a photo-shoot on Saturday.
Friends say she had been feeling unwell for several days, with symptoms including nausea and a soaring temperature.
One insider said: “She just got worse and worse after Saturday and was taken in by her worried management team as it became clear she wasn’t getting any better.
“She really is quite poorly but at least the results came back quickly so the doctors can focus on giving her the right
“She had been taking malaria tablets regularly while on holiday and continued to take them even after she returned, but she still tested positive for it.”
Cheryl is expected to be kept in for at least three nights while she is treated for the disease, which kills between one and three million people a year, mainly in Africa.
She is almost certain to miss this weekend’s X Factor auditions in Manchester. Her team are also frantically trying to re-organise a host of other planned engagements.
Bosses at Talkback Thames, the company that makes X Factor – were locked in meetings yesterday to discuss her absence. Fellow judge Simon Cowell contacted Cheryl yesterday to see how she was.
And he insisted that she should take off as much time as she needed. He told her: “I don’t want to see you back until you are well enough. Just rest and concentrate on getting better.”
A show source said: “The situation will be reviewed on a day by day basis and keep our fingers crossed, but obviously Cheryl’s health comes first.”
Insiders slammed reports she was suffering from exhaustion saying that Cheryl was a “tough cookie” and used to hard work.
The source said: “All this stuff about Cheryl burning the candle at both ends and working too hard is just absolute nonsense. Cheryl always operates at a million miles an hour, in fact she thrives on it.
“It’s the way she’s always been and things haven’t changed. But this time she found herself up against something that she couldn’t beat.
“It’s such a shame as she had such a lovely holiday with Derek and has such lovely memories of it.
“He is worried sick about her. He’s sticking close by her bedside and trying to keep her cheerful.
“He’s probably the best tonic she’s got right now.”
The Mirror exclusively revealed last month how Derek had whisked Cheryl to Tanzania for an idyllic break ahead of the London round of X Factor auditions.
Derek’s stepdad Aaron Nelson, 54, said at the time: “They are going somewhere very exotic, very picturesque and it will be a very nice holiday for the pair them.”
He added: “It will be one of those dream breaks you take when you are just starting out on a relationship.
“Derek is totally in love with that girl and wants to spend as much time as he can with her.” Derek picked the stunning east African country after Cheryl told him she had fallen in love with it following her Comic Relief climb up Mount Kilimanjaro last year.
Ironically, some of the £1.5million she helped raise went towards fighting the scourge of malaria.
For most people, symptoms begin 10 days to a month after infection. But there are various forms of the disease – which is increasingly treatable.
Worryingly, some strains can lie dormant in the body for years before suddenly recurring.
The disease is caused by a parasite called plasmodium, which is transmitted via the bites of infected mosquitoes. The illness causes fever, headaches and vomiting
If not treated promptly, malaria can quickly become life-threatening by disrupting the blood supply to vital organs. It is one of the leading causes of disease and death in the world – with between 300 to 500 million new cases reported every year.